4 Most Common Airbag Injuries

Apr 19, 2021


Airbags are designed to help cushion you and help prevent injury during a car accident. When you’ve been in an accident, airbags and seat belts are safety features designed to protect you from more serious injury. However, it is possible to experience an airbag injury if the airbag is faulty or deploys too late. The speed of the airbag releasing from the steering wheel or dashboard can also cause more harm than intended. You might want to see a whiplash chiropractor if you’ve experienced one of these four most common airbag injuries.

Scrapes, Bruises, and Burns

When the airbag deploys, it can leave you with minor scrapes, bruises, or even friction burns. An airbag may cause scrapes because of how the airbag deploys from the steering wheel and makes contact with your chest, shoulders, head, and neck. You may experience scrapes around any exposed skin from the abrasiveness of the airbag. You could also experience bruises from airbags due to the strong force of impact against your body. In some cases, the chemicals in an airbag deployment can lead to chemical burns. The impact of the airbag can also lead to friction burns. Oftentimes, these minor scrapes, bruises, and burns can be treated by paramedics or with medical care after an accident.


Whiplash is the most common car accident injury because of how the body gets forcefully jostled around upon impact. In fact, the collision of your car with another can lead to whiplash whether or not the airbags deploy. While your upper body is restrained by the seat belt, your head and neck are left unrestrained and can be violently shaken up in the accident. If the airbag deploys, you may also hit your head against the airbag. A whiplash injury involves the neck muscles straining out of their normal range of motion. This can cause headaches, neck pain, swelling, and tenderness. As a whiplash injury sets in, you may also experience stiff neck muscles and difficulty turning your head from side to side.

Muscle Strain

In addition to muscle strain in your neck due to a whiplash injury, an airbag injury can also involve other types of muscle strains. Depending on how close you sit to the airbag, when it deploys it can help cushion you from when your body is flung forward due to the collision. However, if the airbag hits you in your upper chest and shoulders, it can cause the muscles in your shoulders and back to stretch and strain. When you experience muscle strain in your upper back and shoulders, your muscles can feel both tender to the touch and stiff with certain movements.


If you are sitting close to the airbag when it deploys and it makes contact with your head, you may be at risk for a concussion. Your doctor will want to run tests to determine whether or not you have sustained this type of traumatic brain injury. During a normal day, your skull is what protects your brain from serious injury. During a violent event like a car accident, your brain might get shaken around and may even hit the skull. This can cause bruising or even a brain bleed in more serious cases.

Here are the signs and symptoms of a concussion to be mindful of because head injuries are serious and require careful attention:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Fatigue or feeling tired easily
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Confusion or feeling foggy
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Loss of consciousness (not always present, but possible)

Diagnosing and Treating Airbag Injuries

After a car accident, it’s crucial to tell your doctor about any side effects of airbag deployment, such as abrasions, bruises, and in rare cases, chemical burns. When you visit a whiplash chiropractor for a car accident injury, they will use a combination of your symptoms, a physical exam, and diagnostic imaging tools to determine the most appropriate diagnosis. Airbag and car accident injuries can be tricky to diagnose if there are no obvious visible signs. The adrenaline and shock you experience during and immediately after a car accident can obscure symptoms of a more serious injury. That’s why it’s important to get checked out by a car accident doctor who can assess you for injuries you might not even be aware of. A whiplash chiropractor can provide you with treatment for a variety of airbag injuries that address your symptoms as well as the underlying issue. Chiropractic treatments like adjustments and therapeutic massage are gentle and do not rely on any medications or invasive options.

What to Do If Airbags Deploy in a Car Accident

Car accidents are always stressful, and when the airbag deploys, it can add another layer of confusion and concern. While airbags are designed to save lives, they can also cause injuries, and knowing how to respond in such a situation is crucial. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your safety and well-being.

  • Stay Calm: As soon as the airbag deploys, it’s natural to feel startled and disoriented. Take a moment to breathe deeply and assess the situation.
  • Check for Injuries: Assess yourself and passengers for injuries. Pay close attention to any pain or discomfort, especially in the chest, face, or arms.
  • Call for Help: Regardless of the severity of injuries, call emergency services immediately. Inform the dispatcher of the accident, the deployment of the airbag, and any obvious or suspected injuries.
  • Avoid Moving Neck or Head: If you suspect a neck or spinal injury, avoid moving your neck or head unnecessarily. Wait for medical professionals to arrive and provide proper immobilization and treatment.
  • Do Not Remove Airbag Dust: When airbags deploy, they can release a fine dust that helps it eject properly. This dust is not harmful, but attempting to wipe it away could irritate your skin. Wait until emergency responders arrive for proper cleanup.
  • Seek Follow-Up Medical Care: Even if your injuries seem minor, it’s always best to follow up with your healthcare provider. Some injuries may worsen over time or have delayed symptoms, which can require additional evaluation and treatment.

Remember, safety should always be the top priority after a car accident!

Car Accident Airbag Release FAQs

Can airbags burn you?

Airbag chemical burns can happen when the airbag deploys and releases chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, which is used to generate the gas that inflates the airbag. If the airbag ruptures or leaks during deployment, these chemicals can come into contact with the skin, causing burns. The severity of the burns depends on factors like the type and concentration of the chemicals and how long the chemicals come into contact with your skin.

What are the symptoms of airbag chemical burns?

Symptoms of airbag chemical burns may include redness, irritation, blistering, and pain at the site of contact. In severe cases, there may be swelling, oozing of fluids, and even tissue damage. It’s important to seek medical care right away if you suspect you’ve sustained an airbag chemical burn to prevent further complications.

Can airbag chemical burns be prevented?

While a chemical burn from airbag deployment is not as common as other injuries, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. Proper maintenance of your vehicle, including regular inspections of the airbag system, can help ensure that the airbags deploy safely in the event of a collision. Additionally, wearing seat belts correctly and maintaining a safe distance from the airbag module can minimize the risk of injury during deployment. If you’re ever involved in a collision where the airbag deploys, be sure to seek medical attention promptly, even if you don’t immediately notice any injuries, to address any potential chemical exposure.

Can an airbag cause a concussion?

Yes, it is possible that an airbag going off can cause a concussion. While airbags are designed to prevent injuries during serious collisions, the force of the airbag releasing can still exert significant force on the occupants of the vehicle. In some cases, like when the airbag makes forceful contact with your head or face, it can result in a concussion. Airbag injuries to the face might seem superficial at first, but they should always be assessed for more serious issues.

If you are looking for quality car accident doctors in your area, visit AICA Orthopedics and our Snellville chiropractors. Our team of car accident doctors includes chiropractors, orthopedic doctors, neurologists, and physical therapists so you can get the most comprehensive care available for a wide variety of car accident injuries including airbag concussions and whiplash.


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