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Bruise: First aid

Updated: 2024-04-17


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 a healthcare professional if you:

  • Have very painful swelling in the bruised area.
  • Suspect a bruise has been caused by child abuse, domestic violence or elder abuse.
  • Still have pain three days after a 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.