Airbag Burns

Approximately 8 percent of individuals suffering injuries related to airbag deployment are burned. Airbags deploy by ignition of a solid propellant—sodium azide—that creates an exothermic reaction leading to quick inflation of the airbag. Many other gases are created during activation, including corrosives such as sodium hydroxide, nitric oxide, ammonia, and multiple hydrocarbons. An airbag is deflated within 2 s of inflation through exhaust side ports on the bag. Burns associated with airbags include friction, thermal, and chemical.13 Sodium hydroxide has been implicated in the chemical keratitis reported after airbag deployment. Sodium azide may cause cutaneous burns in addition to severe systemic effects, but its contribution to airbag chemical burns is limited. Treatment of airbag chemical burns is similar to any alkali burn: immediate and copious water irrigation.

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