Bruise: First aid


A bruise forms when blood vessels under the skin break. The trapped blood creates a bruise that’s black, purple or blue then changes color as it heals.

You can enhance bruise healing with a few simple techniques.

  • Elevate the bruised area above heart level, if possible.
  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel. Leave it in place for 20 minutes. Repeat several times for a day or two after the injury. This helps to reduce the swelling and pain.
  • If the bruised area is swelling, put an elastic bandage around it, but not too tight.

If the skin isn’t broken, you don’t need to bandage a bruise. Consider taking a nonprescription pain reliever if needed.

Consult your health care provider if you:

  • Have very painful swelling in the bruised area
  • Suspect a bruise has been caused by child abuse, domestic violence or elder abuse
  • Are still experiencing pain three days after a seemingly minor injury
  • Have frequent, large or painful bruises
  • Have bruises that begin suddenly or seem to develop for no reason
  • Have a personal or family history of easy bruising or bleeding
  • Notice a lump form over the bruise, which may be a sign of pooling blood, also called a hematoma
  • Have unusual bleeding, such as from the nose or gums

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Nov. 04, 2022

  1. Thompson DA. Skin injury. In: Adult Telephone Protocols: Office Version. 5th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2022.
  2. Schmitt BD. Skin injury (bruises, cuts, and scrapes). In: Pediatric Telephone Protocols: Office Version. 17th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2021.
  3. Muscle contusion (bruise). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.–conditions/muscle-contusion-bruise. Accessed Sept. 12, 2022.
  4. Patient education: Taking care of bruises (The basics). Accessed Sept. 12, 2022.


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