Nausea and Vomiting after a Car Accident: What Does It Mean?

The aftermath of a car accident is usually overwhelming. You have to haggle with insurance companies, get broken limbs or sprains treated, and determine the best way to move forward with your life. In all that turmoil, it’s easy to ignore nausea, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms after the accident.

However, if you experience any of those symptoms, you shouldn’t ignore them — you should notify a healthcare professional as soon as possible. They could be indicators of a more severe underlying issue that requires a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan.

Pushing these symptoms to the side could lead to complications from an undetected injury that may require even more treatment in the long run. This blog post explains what it means if you experience flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, or headaches after a car accident.

Doctor on the phone

Possible causes of nausea and vomiting after a car accident

There are various causes linked to someone experiencing nausea and vomiting after a car crash, and each one can potentially be severe if it isn’t treated as quickly as possible. If you’re vomiting up blood, you need to seek care immediately, as this is usually a symptom of a serious injury.

Some common causes of car accident nausea can include:

  • Damage to the digestive system: During a car crash, your abdominal region could be hit, causing damage to those organs. A hematoma or internal bleeding could cause stomach bloating, swelling, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Whiplash: The force from a car accident can lead to whiplash, which can cause varying levels of pain depending on its severity. Intense neck pain, backaches, or headaches all may lead to vomiting or feelings of nausea.
  • Fractures or broken limbs: Pain from a fracture or broken limb can be tough to bear, and if that pain is high, your body may react by vomiting or causing nauseous feelings.
  • Damage to soft tissue: Damage to muscles, tendons, or ligaments can also cause intense pain that leads to nausea or vomiting.
  • Traumatic brain injury: Whether it’s due to severe whiplash or a blow to the head, you may also suffer traumatic brain injury during an automobile accident. Vomiting or nausea after a car wreck could be due to a traumatic brain injury that needs immediate medical attention.
  • Concussions: A concussion often occurs after a blow to the head, and if you hit your head in a car accident and experience nausea and/or vomiting after, that is a telltale sign of a concussion. These should be inspected and treated as soon as possible to avoid any further brain damage.
  • Internal bleeding: The impact from a car wreck can cause internal bleeding, which in many cases won’t be detectable unless you seek medical care. Pain from internal bleeding may lead to nausea or vomiting.
  • Anxiety: It’s normal to experience anxious feelings after an auto accident, and sometimes those can cause you to feel nauseated or sick to your stomach.

No matter what the cause may be, nausea and vomiting after a car accident should be taken seriously. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when you have these symptoms after a wreck. A qualified medical professional will be able to help figure out the cause and determine how it should be treated. An accurate diagnosis is critical because there are so many potential causes, some of them urgent and extremely serious.

Symptoms of shock after a car accident

Another factor that contributes to the masking of injuries immediately after a car accident is shock. Shock isn’t just a psychological response to trauma. It can also result from elevated adrenaline in the body after an accident or a sudden drop in blood pressure caused by traumatic injury, internal bleeding, or blood loss. Symptoms of shock can include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Intense confusion, agitation, or disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting

Seat belt syndrome

It’s essential for your safety — and required by law — to wear a seat belt whenever you’re driving. When you’re in a collision, the seat belt restrains your body from rushing flying forward and striking the interior of the car. However, sometimes the force of a collision can be strong enough that the pressure from the seat belt’s restraint results in musculoskeletal damage or other injuries to your internal organs. Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • Abrasions or bruises along the body where the seat belt was: either horizontally across your abdomen or diagonally across your chest
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in urination or bowel movements
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blood in your stool or urine

You should seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms. In the case of the last two — coughing up blood or blood in your urine or stool — you should seek emergency attention.

Why you should not wait to seek medical attention

In Florida, you have 14 days after the date of a car accident before the statute of limitations for your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance expires. PIP insurance will cover your injuries even if you were determined to be at fault for the wreck, so it is in your best interest to seek medical attention. If you wait, you could end up paying a lot more out of pocket — and you could also end up with more serious complications if your injuries go untreated.

Woman with neck pain from whiplash looking at her phone after an accident

Feeling worse the day after an accident

First, it’s important to remember that some injuries after a car accident may not present themselves immediately. You may experience nausea, vomiting, or even experience diarrhea after a car accident — but often not until hours or days later. The shock of being in an accident, combined with all the sudden stress and hassle of dealing with your car, the police, your insurance company, towing companies, auto repair services, etc. — these experiences often cause people to ignore all but the most obvious injuries in the immediate aftermath of a wreck.

What to do if you experience nausea or vomiting after a car accident

After you’ve been in a car accident and experience either nausea or vomiting, you need to go to your doctor or even the hospital depending on the severity of your symptoms. Your primary care physician may end up examining you and determining that you need to see a specialist. For example, they could detect that you have an injury to part of your spine that only an orthopedic surgeon can treat. Delaying your treatment is never a good idea as it only delays your recovery, even if your nausea subsides with prescription medication.

Whiplash and Nausea

If you end up with severe whiplash, an orthopedic doctor can work to help relieve the pain you feel in your neck and back. Whiplash can cause nausea after a car wreck, and if you are vomiting and nauseated you could end up dehydrated. Your orthopedic doctor can treat the injury effectively to try and stop the vomiting and nausea as soon as possible.

Illustration of how the neck and spine are injured during whiplash

How long it takes to recover from nausea after a car accident

Since the causes of nausea after a car accident are so diverse, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. Many times, nausea and vomiting after a wreck are directly linked to pain from an injury. Once that pain is treated and the injury is repaired, the vomiting and nauseous feelings will likely subside.

However, for some injuries, it may take longer for the pain to die down. Traumatic internal injuries will take longer to recover from than some others, and it could take weeks or months to recover from a bad back or neck injury. Each case is different, and the medical professionals who are treating you will be able to best answer this question for you.

How an orthopedic doctor may help you

After you experience car accident nausea, vomiting, or other flu-like symptoms, your treatment plan may involve orthopedic remedies. These are generally most effective when they’re overseen by an orthopedic doctor or surgeon. They can examine your injuries and figure out the best methods to treat them.

Your orthopedic specialist can also treat any fractures that you may have or soft tissue injuries. Ligaments, tendons, and muscle pain can cause nausea as well, and those need certain types of specialized treatment in order to heal properly.

What’s involved in orthopedic car accident treatment

When you visit an orthopedic specialist, they will assess your injuries and create a plan. Depending on the severity, they may recommend surgery, but will try to use less invasive methods of treatment if possible. This may include:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Injections

If you opt for an outpatient center, you’ll be able to get X-rays, MRIs, exams, physical therapy, and more all under one roof.

If your orthopedic doctor decides surgery is needed, that surgery can also be performed in an outpatient center. At Alexander Orthopaedic Associates, we use a team approach so that our staff can collaborate on cases and work together. That approach allows us to lead you toward a full recovery rather than a temporary fix.

Let us help you get back on the road to recovery

At Alexander Orthopaedics, we work with car accident victims to help them recover from their injuries. If your injury caused you to vomit or feel nauseous after a wreck, then we may be able to help you relieve those symptoms by treating the underlying cause. If it’s bone or soft tissue injuries, our team members can create a specialized treatment plan that best fits you and your lifestyle.

Don’t wait to get your injuries treated, as they may end up getting worse and cause you more problems down the road. Contact us today so we can discuss your injuries and get you in for an appointment as soon as possible.

Learn More about Auto Accident Recovery at Alexander Orthopaedics.