First aid

29 June 2005

First aid for bruises

Most bruises are relatively minor and heal on their own over a period of about ten days.

A bruise is caused by blood seeping into the tissues due to breakage of small blood vessels near the surface of the skin. It is usually caused by a bump or fall. Older people tend to bruise more easily. Most bruises are relatively minor and heal on their own over a period of about ten days.

Home treatment

  • Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and to relieve pain. The sooner you do so, the smaller the bruise will be. Make an ice pack by wrapping crushed ice or frozen peas in a damp cloth. Don’t put it directly onto the skin as this could cause damage. Apply the ice pack for 15 minutes every two hours for the first 24 hours. After 48 hours, apply a heat pad a few times a day to dilate the blood vessels to speed up the absorption of the bruise.
  • If the bruise is on the leg or arm, elevate the limb to limit more bruising and swelling.
  • Arnica oil or witch hazel ointment speeds up healing. Pineapple in the diet helps to speed up healing and prevents easy bruising.
  • If you need a pain killer, take paracetamol. Do not use aspirin or ibuprofen for the first 24 hours.

See a doctor if:

  • the pain is severe or limits normal movement.
  • the bruise occurs on the abdomen or loin and is due to a high-speed fall from a bicycle or other traumatic accident. There may be less obvious underlying injuries.
  • there is a bruise behind the ear following a head injury. It may be a sign of a skull fracture.
  • there are signs of infection.
  • bruises occur without any apparent reason. Repeated, spontaneous bruises may indicate a blood problem or due to certain medications
  • a bruise does not start to fade within a week.

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