What is a bruise?

A bruise is a collection of blood underneath the skin that is caused by trauma to an area of the body. The trauma causes tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, to break, and then blood leaks from the vessels into the surrounding 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.
  • A cold or ice pack for the first 24 hours after injury may help reduce swelling and discomfort. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Place a towel between the ice and your child's skin. After one to two 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.
  • Avoid putting more pressure on the bruised area or massaging it.
  • If the bruise involves a large area on an arm or leg, elevate the limb to help reduce swelling.

When should I call my child's primary care provider?

Specific treatment for bruises that require more than minor treatment at home will be determined by your child's primary care provider. In general, call your child's primary care provider if your child:

  • Bruises often or has recurring bruises without known trauma 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 difficulty breathing 
  • Bruises in young infants prior to crawling
  • Bruises of ears, neck, genitals
  • Bleeding from another site


Reviewed by Vicky L. Scheid, MD, FAAP

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