Air Bags and the Skin

Monica Corazza, MD; Silvana Trincone, MD; Maria Rosaria Zampino, MD; Annarosa Virgili, MD

In This Article

Eye and Ear Lesions

When examining a patient with skin lesions of the face, it must be kept in mind that there may also be damage to the eyes and ears. In this case, prompt specialist consultation is mandatory.

The fine alkali aerosol vaporized in the vehicle may cause ocular alkali chemical burns that are easily detectable by testing the pH of the eyes with litmus paper.[12,19,20] Normal eye pH is 7.0-7.4; in alkaline keratitis it is obviously higher. To avoid possible permanent visual impairment, it is necessary to quickly irrigate with a large amount of water or saline solution. After air bag inflation, mechanical eye trauma can also occur, so it is quite frequent to note concomitant corneal and eyelid abrasions, contusions, and edema.[20] Other ocular injuries after air bag inflation are lens subluxation, vitreous hemorrhage, traumatic iritis, corneal hyphaema, and intra-retinal and subretinal hemorrhage.[19]

Hearing loss, disequilibrium, and external ear lesions due to barotrauma caused by impact of the air bag against the side of a patient's head have also been reported.[21]