Warning: mobiles and lightning don't mix

Conversation killer

UK doctors are advising mobile-addicted Brit youth to lay off the chat during thunderstorms - or risk the consequences.

According to the BBC, the British Medical Journal cites the case of a 15-year-old girl who was struck by lightning in a London park while talking on her phone. She suffered a burst eardrum and cardiac arrest and, a year later, "has severe physical difficulties as well as brain damage which has led to emotional and cognitive problems".

What the kids of today don't understand, apparently, is that when you're struck by lightning, your skin's high resistance will cause most of the charge to pass over the body in a process called "external flashover". If, however, you have metal objects or liquids in contact with the skin, these can provoke the charge to enter and pass through your body where it can wreak havoc with your internals.

The Northwick Park Hospital doctors who treated the unfortunate London victim discovered three fatal cases of mobile phone chat lightning strike - in China, Korea and Malaysia. Swinda Esprit, of the ear, nose and throat department said: "It is obvious really, but we all carry mobile phones and we don't think about it. Children particularly won't realise the risk."

It's not, however, simply a matter of not making calls during tempests. The mere presence of your phone about your person increases the risk of lightning-induced internal injury, as Met Office boffin Paul Taylor noted: "It is well known within the thunderstorm detection community that wearing or carrying metallic objects can increase the likelihood of injury.

"It certainly adds to the intensity of the skin damage and the article certainly amplifies that here. I would treat a mobile phone as yet another piece of metal that people tend to carry on their persons like coins and rings." ®

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