First Aid Essentials: A Comprehensive Guide for Handling Car Accident Injuries
Every year, millions of people are involved in car accidents. According to the National Safety Council data, there were 5.4 million medically consulted injuries in auto accidents in the U.S. in 2021. While not all car crashes result in severe injuries, being prepared with first aid knowledge can make a significant difference. Knowing how to administer first aid can be the difference between a quick recovery and long-term complications.
The Importance of First Aid
When a collision occurs, the minutes that follow are crucial. The human body is vulnerable to a range of injuries, from blunt force trauma, such as fractures or internal bleeding, to more visible car accident injuries, like cuts and bruises. But if someone immediately performs the necessary first-aid, it can help control bleeding, stabilize injured areas, and prevent further harm. For example, applying pressure to a bleeding wound can significantly reduce blood loss, potentially saving a life before the paramedics or EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) arrive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that over 1.3 million people die each year due to traffic crashes. Many of these fatalities could be prevented if someone had administered the basic first aid immediately.
Accident preparedness is crucial; knowing how to correctly position an injured person, perform CPR, or even just keep the injured calm can profoundly affect their recovery journey. To that end, you can make your own first aid essentials kit to always keep in your car. Here’s what it should contain:
- Antiseptic wipes
- Adhesive bandages
- Adhesive tape
- Sterile gauze pads
- Instant cold packs
- Antibiotic ointment
- Pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen)
- Burn cream/gel
- Elastic bandage
- Cotton balls and swabs
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Emergency blanket
- A first aid manual
- A bottle of water
Before Administering First Aid
While performing first aid at the scene of a car accident is important, there are essential steps you must take before diving in.
Before you rush to help, make sure you are not putting yourself or others at risk. Move away from oncoming traffic, turn off car engines, and check the scene for potential hazards. Always call 911 or the local emergency number before you start the process of first aid.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Park your car safely by the roadside and out of the way of traffic, then switch your hazard lights on. If you have high-visibility jackets or clothing, wear them.
- Evaluate the accident scene and make sure it is safe to enter it. Look for any signs of fuel, fire, smoke or exposed wiring.
- Warn the other drivers that a crash has occurred, especially in cases of poor visibility or high-speed traffic. You can use emergency flares, cones, signs or a flashlight to get their attention.
- As for the vehicle involved in the accident, switch off its ignition and apply the parking brakes. You might also have to disconnect its batteries to reduce the risk of fire, but ONLY if it does not take too much time or endanger you or the victims.
- Check for injuries and ask the victims if they are hurt or need help. If anyone is seriously injured, do NOT try to move them unless they are in immediate danger, like being inside a burning vehicle. Moving them could make their injuries worse or cause spinal damage.
- Also, never ever remove a motorcyclist’s helmet unless they are having trouble breathing, as this can cause further injury.
Basic First Aid for Common Car Crash Injuries
Remember, while first aid can be crucial in the moments following an accident, it’s essential to seek professional medical attention as soon as possible. The steps mentioned below are meant to stabilize and help the injured in the immediate aftermath, not replace expert medical care.
If someone has been hurt in a traffic crash, here are some of the most common injuries they might sustain:
Cuts and Scrapes
When a window or windshield breaks during a collision, the flying glass can cut any exposed skin. The rapid deployment of airbags can also cause friction burns, abrasions, or even minor cuts, especially if the occupants were wearing glasses or had their phone in their hands.
These cuts must be treated properly; otherwise, they can result in deadly infections. While the injured victim waits for the emergency response team, you can perform the following first aid treatment:
- Gently clean the area with mild soap and water to remove any debris. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as these can delay healing.
- If the wound is bleeding, use a clean cloth or bandage to apply gentle pressure until the bleeding stops.
- Apply antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin) and cover it with a bandage or gauze pad.
Whiplash is a common injury in car accidents, especially when a vehicle is rear-ended. Even if you don’t feel pain right away, it’s a good idea to see a doctor because symptoms can show up later.
- If you suspect someone has whiplash, keep their neck as still as possible. Avoid moving it to prevent further injury.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before administering any medication.
Fractures and Sprains
When another vehicle collides with your own, the sudden impact can cause your body to move in ways it’s not supposed to. When that force is too strong, it can cause bones to break or crack.
Before you can get your sprains, strained muscles, or broken bones checked out by an orthopedic surgeon to make sure they heal correctly, here’s what to do:
- Before handling injuries, immobilize them by using splints, boards, or anything rigid to keep the injured area from moving. If you suspect a broken bone, try immobilizing the area above and below the suspected fracture.
- Apply ice wrapped in a cloth to the injured area for 15-20 minutes every hour to reduce swelling.
- If possible, raise the injured area above heart level to minimize swelling.
Shock – from being in a car collision – is not about being surprised or startled. Instead, it is a serious medical condition where the body is not getting the blood flow it needs. When you go through a traumatic event, your body sometimes finds it hard to send blood to all the right places.
This can happen for many reasons. If you are hurt and bleeding, your body might lose too much blood. Or, the stress and fear from the crash can make your heart act in ways that reduce blood flow to vital organs.
Signs that indicate shock are clammy skin, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and shallow breathing. To help the victim:
- Lay them down. If they don’t have a head injury, elevate their legs. This can increase blood flow to the brain.
- Use a blanket or clothing to keep them warm, but avoid overheating.
- Talk to them calmly and reassuringly. Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
Head injuries in motor vehicle crashes usually happen because of a sudden jolt. And even if your head doesn’t directly hit something, the sudden stopping of the vehicle can make your brain move inside your skull.
People inside the vehicle can get anything from a mild concussion to severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). It’s always important to see a neurosurgeon after a particularly severe crash, even if you feel okay, as some critical injuries might not show symptoms immediately.
When performing first aid in this scenario, keep the following safety measures and spinal injury precautions in mind:
- Unless they are in immediate danger, avoid moving someone with a suspected head injury.
- If they are unconscious, try to wake them up. If they don’t wake up, check their pulse and breathing. Start CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) if necessary.
- Apply a clean cloth to any open wounds but avoid applying too much pressure.
Seek Professional Medical Help at Icon Medical Centers
Whether you were driving or walking on the road when you were hit by a careless driver, the initial shock and adrenaline can sometimes mask the true extent of injuries. It’s a natural defense mechanism of our body. However, it can be disastrously misleading. So even if you feel perfectly okay or your injuries appear minor at first glance, pay us a visit at Icon Medical Centers.
We offer a middle ground between primary care physicians who have limited office hours and emergency rooms that will charge you an arm and a leg for basic wound care. Depending on the severity of your injury, we will create an injury management and treatment plan that consists of chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy, pain management, and osteopathic treatment.
Our accident clinic in Miami provides urgent care for injuries that need to be addressed right away but are not life-threatening, such as:
- Bruises and contusions
- Lacerations (cuts)
- Abrasions (scrapes)
- Rib fractures
- Torn ligaments
- Puncture wounds
- Herniated discs
- Internal bleeding
- Burns and scalds
- Head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
However, if you have sustained an injury that is making it hard to breathe or you have deep lacerations that won’t stop bleeding after applying pressure for several minutes, head to your nearest ER. For more information about our accident clinic in Hollywood, call us at 786-882-0457 or fill out this online contact form.