Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA): Contusion from a Seat Belt 

Seat belts can help save lives in a car accident. But if your body was thrown forward against the seat belt, you may have a bruise (contusion) or scrape (abrasion) on your neck, chest, back, or belly (abdomen).

A bruise may cause changes in skin color. For instance, the skin may turn blue or black. Swelling and pain may also occur. A scrape may cause pain, redness, swelling, and bleeding. 

Most bruises and scrapes are not serious. They generally take a few days or longer to heal.

Home care

  • Being in a car accident can be emotionally upsetting. Take time to rest and adjust to what has happened. Talking with others about your feelings can help you feel less anxious and afraid.

  • It’s normal for your muscles to feel sore and tight the day after the accident. But tell your healthcare provider about any pain that is severe.

  • You may use acetaminophen to control pain, If ibuprofen or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) was prescribed, use as directed.

  • To help reduce swelling and pain, apply a cold source to the injured area for up to 20 minutes at a time as often as directed. Use a cold pack or ice pack. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on your skin.

  • If you have any cuts or scrapes caused by the accident, care for them as directed.

  • Call your provider if your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms

Note about concussion

The strong forces from a car accident can sometimes cause a concussion (mild brain injury). You don’t have symptoms of a concussion at this time. But these can show up later. For this reason, you may be told to watch for symptoms of concussion once you’re home. Get emergency medical care if you develop any of the symptoms below over the next hours or days:

  • Headache

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Sensitivity to light or noise

  • Abnormal sleepiness or grogginess

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Personality changes

  • Vision changes

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Trouble walking or clumsiness

  • Loss of consciousness (even for a short time)

  • Inability to wake up

During the time period that you’re watching for concussion symptoms:

  • Don’t drink alcohol or use sedatives or other medicines that make you sleepy.

  • Don’t drive or operate machinery.

  • Don’t do anything strenuous, such as heavy lifting or straining.

  • Limit tasks that require concentration. This includes reading, watching TV, using a smartphone or computer, and playing video games.

  • Until your healthcare provider gives you the go ahead, don’t return to sports, exercise, or other activity that could result in another injury.

Ask your healthcare provider when you can safely resume each of the above activities.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or as advised. If you had imaging tests done, they will be reviewed by a doctor. You will be told the results and any new findings that may affect your care.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Bruising spreads or worsens

  • Pain or swelling gets worse

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • More warmth, redness, swelling, bleeding, or drainage around any cuts or scrapes

  • New or worsening symptoms

Call 911

Call 911 right away if any of these occur:

  • Blood in your vomit, stool (red or black color), or urine (pink or red color)

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath

  • Seizure

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