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Signs of a brain injury after a car accident

In the moments after a car accident, it may not be immediately obvious that you or anyone else in your vehicle has been seriously hurt. As the shock of the impact fades, you may check your body for signs of injury, like blood or pain.

However, you may not know the signs of a traumatic brain injury, and if you are the one who suffered the injury, you likely will not be aware of what has happened.

Here are some possible symptoms of a severe head injury:

  • Sleepiness
  • Severe headache or neck stiffness
  • Different-sized pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting more than once
  • Inability to move a limb
  • Abnormal behavior

If someone at the accident scene displays these symptoms, call 911 right away. Then check the person’s airway, breathing and circulation. If any of these are compromised, you may need to perform rescue breathing or CPR.

If not, you will still need to keep the victim’s head and neck stabilized with your hands. Hold the head so that it is in line with the spine. However, if there is a lot of blood, try not to move the head. Apply a clean cloth to the wound site, unless you believe the person’s skull is fractured. In that case, use sterile gauze if available.

Use ice packs on swollen areas. If the victim starts to vomit, roll him or her onto his or her side.

These steps may help a TBI victim survive at the scene long enough for EMTs to take over. However, those who survive a severe brain injury often end up with long-term effects that require expensive medical and therapeutic care.

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