Healthsheet

Airbag Contact Injury

Air Bag Injury

In order to protect you during a crash, air bags must inflate very rapidly. They stop you from hitting the steering wheel or windshield during a front-end crash. They are very good at saving lives. But they blast out of the steering wheel hub or instrument panel at more than 100 mph. Because of this great force, the air bag may injure you when it strikes your body. Such injuries are usually minor scrapes (abrasions) and chemical burns to the face, hands, or arms.

Although rare, a more serious or even fatal injury can happen when someone is very close to the air bag module when it opens. To help prevent this:

  • Wear your seat belt at all times whether you are a driver or a passenger. This will keep you at a safe distance from the airbag when it opens.
  • When driving, sit with your breastbone at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel.
  • Children younger than 12 are safest in the rear seat.
  • Never put a rear-facing infant restraint in the front seat. This puts the baby's head too close to the airbag. Severe head injury or death could occur if the air bag opens with the child in this position.

Home care

Follow these tips for home care if you have a scrape or chemical burn:

  • If you were given a bandage, change it once a day. If your bandage sticks to the wound, soak it in warm water until it loosens.
  • Wash the area with soap and water to remove all the cream or ointment. You may do this in a sink, under a tub faucet, or in the shower. Rinse off the soap and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • Reapply cream or ointment according to your health care provider's instructions. This will prevent infection and help keep the bandage from sticking.
  • Cover the wound with a fresh nonstick bandage. If the wound is on your face, you can just use the cream or ointment without the bandage, if you prefer.
  • Repeat this procedure once a day until the scrape becomes dry.
  • If the bandage gets wet or dirty, change it as soon as you can.

You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your health care provider. Most skin wounds heal within 10 days. But you make get an infection even with proper treatment. Watch for early signs of infection listed below.

When to seek medical care

Get prompt medical attention if any of these occur:

  • Pain in the wound that gets worse
  • Redness or swelling that gets worse
  • Pus coming from the wound
  • Fever of 100.4?F (38?C) or higher, or as told by your health care provider
  • Headache or vision problems, or headache or vision problems that get worse
  • Neck, back, abdomen, arm, or leg pain, or pain in these areas that gets worse
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain that gets worse
  • Repeated vomiting, dizziness, or fainting
  • Excessive drowsiness or unable to wake up as usual
  • Confusion or change in behavior or speech, memory loss, or blurred vision