How to Treat Airbag Burns

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Airbags can cause thermal burns, chemical burns, and friction burns. There are different treatments for each type of burn, so it is important to know which kind of burn you suffered from a deployed airbag.

Chemical Burn Treatment

Begin basic first aid. Remove any contaminated clothing and wash the injured area to remove the chemical substance.

Use lots of water, washing for at least 20 minutes. If the chemical burn has affected your eye(s), the best way to get your eyes flushed is to get into the shower.

Brush away any solid material around the burn area. Be careful to not get the solid material on unburned skin, in the event that this material caused the burn in the first place.

Get medical treatment if the burn looks bad, or if you are uncertain of cleaning and caring for the burn itself. Medical treatment for severe burns might include IV fluids to normalize blood pressure and heart rate or IVs for medications needed to treat pain or protect against infection. Treatment also includes flushing the area with water and applying an antidote to counteract the chemical (if appropriate). Follow up treatment includes cleaning and bandaging of the wound with medicated creams.

Thermal Burns Treatment

Stop the burning process. Thermal burns can be caused by airbags (the heating of the chemical reaction). If possible get the airbag away from the person, if the person cannot get out of the car.

Cool the burn with water. Do not use ice. If possible, have cool water within 30 seconds, as this may limit the severity of the burn.

Control the pain. Use a cool, wet compress for pain relief. Do not use ice—it may make the injury to the skin worse. You may also take aspirin or acetaminophen.

Use an antibiotic cream ointment made specifically for burns to help fight infection.

Friction Burns

The rubbing of the airbag on your skin could cause a friction burn. Friction burns usually cause blisters, and do not require a doctor’s care. New skin forms under the blister, and the fluid is absorbed. The blister keeps the skin clean, preventing infection and promoting healing.

Do not remove blisters. If you must pop them, use a sterile pin or razor blade. You can heat the tip until it’s red-hot or dip it in alcohol.

Do not remove the skin from a blister. It will protect the wound until new skin can grow.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most people with chemical burns do not need to be admitted. Most can go home after arranging follow-up care with their doctor. In severe cases, however, they may need to be admitted to a hospital.
  • Immediately call 911 if you have a severe injury, any shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, or other symptoms. If the person you are helping shows these symptoms, lay the person down and immediately call 911.
  • Do not use butter or mayonnaise on the burn. They may increase the chance of infection.

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