What is a bruise?

A bruise is a collection of blood underneath the skin that is caused by an injury to an area of the body. The injury causes tiny blood vessels (capillaries) to break. Then blood leaks from the vessels into the nearby tissue. Sometimes enough bleeding occurs so that a lump also forms. This lump is called a hematoma.

First aid for bruises

A bruise will usually heal on its own. Some general guidelines for treatment may include:

  • Calm your child and let him or her know that you can help.

  • Using a cold pack for the first 24 hours after injury may help reduce swelling and discomfort. To make a cold pack, fill a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes. Then wrap it with a clean, thin towel. Never place ice directly on the skin.

  • After 1 to 2 days, warm soaks or a warm bath may help the area feel better.

  • If the bruise or swelling is on the lips or in the mouth, offer your child an ice cube or ice pop to suck on.

  • Don't put more pressure on the bruised area or rub it.

  • If the bruise involves a large area on an arm or leg, raise the limb to help reduce swelling.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Your child’s healthcare provider will determine specific treatment for bruises that need more than minor treatment at home. In general, call your child's provider if your child:

  • Bruises often

  • Has bruises that keep coming back without any known injury or cause

  • Has increased pain or swelling

  • Is unable to move a joint

  • May have broken a bone

  • Has injured or bruised an eye

  • Has injured or bruised the neck or is having trouble breathing

  • Is on blood-thinning medicines or has or may have a blood-clotting disorder.