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What is a bruise?

A bruise is discoloration and tenderness of the skin caused by bleeding into the skin from damaged blood vessels. Because the skin is not broken, there is no risk of infection. Bruises usually occur after a fall on or an injury caused by blunt objects. Unexplained bruises can indicate that a child has a bleeding tendency (exception: "unexplained" bruises on the shins are usually not a sign of a bleeding tendency because people commonly bump this area and then forget that they bumped it).

Bruises change colors over time from reddish to bluish to yellowish before the skin fades back to its normal color.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Bruises

    Apply a cold pack or ice in a bag to the bruised area for 20 minutes. No other treatment should be necessary. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain. Don't use aspirin because it may prolong the bleeding. After 48 hours apply a warm washcloth for 10 minutes 3 times a day to help the skin reabsorb the blood. Bruises clear in about 2 weeks.

  • Blood blisters

    Do not open blood blisters because it will increase the possibility of infection. The blisters will dry up and peel off in 1 to 2 weeks.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?


  • Your child develops new bruises AND you don't know what caused them.
  • Your child has bruises around the eyes after a head injury.
  • A bruise does not heal.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2009-06-18
Last reviewed: 2017-06-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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