Whether you were the driver or the passenger in a car accident, it is possible to go into shock after such a traumatic event. Shock after a car accident isn’t just related to psychological trauma; it can also affect you physically and require medical attention. Delayed shock symptoms are also common after a traumatic event like a car accident. When you’ve been in an accident, your body starts pumping with adrenaline to engage your fight or flight response that helps you take care of yourself after the accident. However, that automatic adrenaline response can also mask symptoms of shock and other car accident injuries. Here’s what you need to know about the medical condition known as traumatic shock and how it can impact you after a car accident.
Why People Experience Shock After a Car Accident
A sudden drop in blood flow throughout your body can bring on shock after a car accident. This sudden drop in blood flow may be caused by a traumatic injury or blood loss due to car accident injuries. People typically go into shock because their vital organs aren’t getting enough blood or oxygen, which means they can’t function properly. Deep cuts, also known as lacerations, can lead to a severe loss of blood. It is also possible to go into shock after a car accident because of internal bleeding, though you might not realize that is what’s happening right away. If you suffer an internal injury that doesn’t have obvious signs or symptoms immediately after the car accident, then you may start to experience delayed shock symptoms as the day goes on.
Symptoms of Shock After a Car Accident
When a loss of oxygen and blood flow to your organs occurs, symptoms of shock can include dizziness, irregular heartbeat, rapid breathing, weakness, nausea, or vomiting. Someone experiencing shock after a car accident may have clammy or cold skin that looks pale, along with blue or gray-tinted lips and fingernails. Other symptoms of shock can include chest pain and a quickened or weakened pulse after the accident. Shock after a car accident can also lead to emotional responses like anxiety, agitation, confusion, or disorientation. Some people may experience loss of consciousness after a car accident, which could be a symptom of shock.
Why Symptoms of Shock Might Be Delayed
It can take the body some time to fully acknowledge the traumatic event that has occurred, which is why some symptoms of shock might be delayed. Your brain may actually try to protect you by blocking out your ability to process the traumatic event right away. This can help you engage with your fight or flight response and help you get out of danger. For example, your body might send you into a temporary state of hyper-focus so that you can get to a safe place and better assess for injuries. The type of shock you are experiencing can also impact whether or not you experience delayed shock symptoms after a car accident.
4 Types of Car Accident Shock
There are many types of shock, depending on the cause or event that has occurred and how it impacts your body. Here are four types of car accident shock.
Hypovolemic shock is a common type of shock after a traumatic event like a car accident where you have sustained car accident injuries. Severe blood loss can occur with car accident injuries like deep lacerations. When your body loses a lot of blood, your organs don’t receive enough oxygen and other nutrients, so they are unable to function properly.
Certain types of car accident injuries can make you more susceptible to obstructive shock, which refers to a type of shock where blood flow is obstructed in part of the body. A serious car accident injury could cause a collapsed lung, known as a pneumothorax, which can lead to a buildup of air inside the chest cavity, causing obstructive shock.
If the heart is damaged due to car accident injuries, then you may experience cardiogenic shock. This type of shock occurs when your heart is unable to pump blood to the rest of your body because the heart muscle is damaged. Cardiogenic shock can also be caused by an irregular or very slow heart rhythm.
Neurogenic shock refers to a type of shock that can occur when the central nervous system is damaged or injured as a result of a car accident. A spinal cord injury can lead to neurogenic shock, where the blood vessels dilate, and you become warm and flushed. Neurogenic shock can also lead to symptoms like a slow heart rate and very low blood pressure.
Diagnosing Delayed Shock Symptoms
If first responders attend to you at the scene of the car accident, then they will check for a weak pulse, rapid heartbeat, or low blood pressure. They may also be able to recognize that you are in shock based on your external symptoms and proceed accordingly by getting the blood circulating through your body effectively again. Once you are in stable condition and your organs are receiving proper oxygen and blood flow, your doctor can address the root cause of your shock. This may require imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans to identify any internal injuries like bone fractures, organ ruptures, or soft tissue tears.
Treatment of Shock After an Accident
After first aid treatment by emergency services like first responders or emergency room doctors, you may continue treatment and care with a car accident doctor. Your treatment options for shock will depend on the type of shock you experienced and also what caused your condition. When you experience car accident injuries along with shock, your car accident doctor can work with you to fully recover from shock and help prevent future cases of shock. At Pro-Care Medical Centers, our team of car accident doctors are highly trained and skilled to treat a wide range of car accident injuries and support you through your healing and recovery.