How to Care for a Bruise

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A bruise is caused when blood vessels rupture due to a blow to a part of your body. No special bruise care is required, but there are things you can do if you want to decrease the swelling, duration and coloration of the bruise.

Things You'll Need

  • Acetaminophen
  • Cold Compresses
  • Warm Compresses
  • Ice Packs
  • Ice packs
  • Rest the bruised area. This permits the blood to clot more quickly, which limits the spread of blood beneath the skin.

  • Apply a cold compress to the bruise'20 minutes on, 20 minutes off'as often as you can for the first day or two. The cold will constrict blood vessels and help keep the bruise from spreading. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Always use an ice pack or a cold compress.

  • Avoid aspirin until the bruise has started to heal. Aspirin is an anticoagulant, which prevents blood from clotting as quickly. Blood that does not clot spreads more extensively underneath the skin.

  • Take acetaminophen for pain. This does not affect clotting.

  • Apply a warm, wet compress after the first 48 hours to reduce pain and swelling. Heat is recommended once the blood has stopped spreading around the bruise. Heat dilates blood vessels, which will help speed the sweeping away of blood cells from around the ruptured vessels.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once blood vessels under the skin rupture, the area swells and oxygen is cut off. When the hemoglobin has less oxygen, the blood turns blue'hence the black and blue color of a bruise. When hemoglobin begins to break down, the bruise looks yellowish-green. Bruises usually take three days to two weeks to lighten significantly.
  • Bruises commonly develop around the sites of other injuries, like an ankle fracture or a minor surgical procedure.
  • It's best not to wrap a bruise, because the bruise needs room to swell. Elastic bandages are often applied too tightly, causing constriction that is counterproductive to healing.
  • Spontaneous bruising is cause for concern. See your doctor if you find yourself bruising for no apparent reason.
  • This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.

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