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Can adrenalin mask symptoms after an auto accident?

The short answer is yes.

After a traffic accident, even serious injuries are not always immediately apparent. You may be in shock or so "freaked out" by the accident that you do not even realize you are injured.

Why is this? It's because our bodies will give us a rush of endorphins such as epinephrine (which is another word for adrenaline) when we experience high stress or scary situations. Endorphins operate like opiates in the body (such as morphine) because they can mask pain.

  • Adrenaline is a naturally occurring hormone and a neurotransmitter. Adrenalin (without the 'e') is a medication that is a synthetic adrenaline.
  • Adrenaline/ epinephrine is an endorphin. There are at least 20 different types of endorphins in our bodies.  

"Epinephrine... increases blood pressure and heart rate, which helps the person suffering the injury run away or stay alive," said Richard O'Brien in an abcnews article. O'Brien is a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians and an emergency room doctor.

When an accident happens body and mind respond

When we see an accident happen adrenaline shoots through our system and stays elevated until our brain has had time to recover from the stress of the accident.

We may feel some pain, numbness, and/or dizziness right after a traffic accident.  Or, we may not notice them at first, but a day, or two or even weeks later they can surface and cause issues. Not only that but when we experience a traumatic, near death experience (our mind may send signals telling us we are going to die and this is emotionally traumatic) we can have residual psychological ramifications, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

How to care for yourself

First, no matter how minor the accident seems, get seen and evaluated by a medical professional. If you have suffered any kind of head trauma you may not be in the best place to make an accurate assessment of your injuries. Make sure and tell the medical staff you were in a car accident and that you may have neck or head trauma.

Second, get seen as soon as you can after the accident. If you wait days or weeks it become increasingly difficult to prove that it was the accident that caused your headache, whiplash, bruise, strain or other injury.

When you go to the doctor

Bring a friend or relative along to your appointment and take pictures of your injury. This can be done with a phone camera. What seems like a small, superficial bruise or cut may be much deeper. You will want to document it at the beginning. Make sure you talk about ALL of your symptoms. Dizziness, confusion, fatigue and nausea are all very important to note as they could indicate head or other body trauma.

Keep track of all payments and bills for any medical care you receive because of your injury. Also, be sure to describe the accident to the physician and then read what he or she writes in the report to make sure he or she understood what you said and what you meant.

The best way to protect yourself

It is ALWAYS in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney any time you are involved in a car accident and were in any way injured. Insurance companies are not on your side and are not there to help you to get the help you need. In fact, they may even downplay your injuries and need for care. The best way to protect yourself is to work with an established professional.

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