Here’s exactly what you need to do if you’ve been in a car accident with your baby.
It’s easy for adults to know when a trip to the ER or urgent care is needed after a car accident. We feel pain, we know something’s not right, so we go in to be seen by a professional.
But for parents of infants (who can’t communicate symptoms), it can be difficult to know the best course of action after a car accident. Here are some general rules of thumb if you experience a collision with your baby.
If possible, avoid moving or picking up your infant until EMTs arrive on the scene. Pediatricians and chiropractors agree that you can never be too careful, especially when it comes to spinal injuries. Because children have more flexibility in their necks, they are more prone to spinal cord injury, the effects of which may not be fully realized for months or years to come. Even if the child seems fine at the scene, experts advise that a complete evaluation (including nervous system) should be done as soon as possible.
If your infant is seen by an emergency room doctor, request that all records be sent to your pediatrician. Most likely, he or she will want to do at least one follow-up appointment with your infant to make sure there have been no health changes after hospital discharge. It’s also good for your pediatrician to have the crash information in your child’s charts for all future evaluations.
What to Watch For
Because injuries in infants can be tricky to diagnose, be vigilant in the weeks following your collision. If you notice any lethargy, vomiting, sleep disturbances, inconsolable crying, bowel irregularities—or if your baby “just doesn’t seem like himself”—communicate with your pediatrician right away. Sometimes injuries present themselves later, but are still very serious.
Replacing a Car Seat
Most car seat manufacturers recommend that you replace any car seat that was in an accident. A few types allow you to continue use after minor fender benders (check your owner’s manual). According to the NHTSA, if the following are true, you may be able to reuse the seat, depending upon the brand:
- The vehicle was driven away from the crash site.
- The airbags did not deploy.
- The door closest to the car seat was undamaged.
- No occupant sustained any injuries.
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.
Remember, car seats that have been in a crash may decrease in effectiveness should there be another collision. Replacing a car seat is a small price to pay for your little one’s well-being, and often the cost will be reimbursed by the insurance company responsible for the damages. Keep your receipts and talk to the adjuster about the importance of car seat reliability.
Lastly, be sure to care properly for yourself after a car accident. Parents can be so focused on their child’s welfare that they delay appropriate medical care for their own symptoms.