What's the best way to treat a bruise?
If your child's bruise is relatively minor, you can treat it at home. Apply ice packs for 15-minute periods at least several times a day during the first 48 hours to reduce swelling. A zip-lock bag filled with ice cubes and water or a partially thawed package of frozen peas may be useful if an ice pack isn't handy. Elevating the bruised area also lessens swelling. If the bruise is painful, give your child acetaminophen. Make sure she takes it easy, especially if the bruise is on an arm or leg, since physical activity can delay healing.
What causes bruises?
Most bruises develop because your child has banged against something, fallen down, or been bumped or hit with a blunt object. Almost all kids who play sports or spend time on the playground are likely to come home with bruises now and then; if your child enjoys hanging from the monkey bars, you might notice several bruise marks on the front of each leg between the knee and ankle.
The visible signs of a bruise appear because small blood vessels near the skin's surface have ruptured. Blood seeps into the surrounding tissue, causing the familiar black and blue. As the body breaks down and reabsorbs this blood, the mark typically turns a greenish yellow. Bruises are more obvious on fair-skinned children, of course, than on dark-skinned kids. Younger children bruise more easily than older kids because their skin is thinner.
Luckily, most bruises are harmless and heal quickly. If the bruise resulted from a serious fall from a bike or any other accident, however, call your pediatrician; he or she may want to examine your child for less obvious injuries.
How should I treat a black eye?
A black eye is just a type of bruise; apply the same home treatments described above. Be sure to examine the eye carefully, though. Some eye injuries are serious. If you notice any of the following, call your child's doctor immediately:
- Impaired or double vision
- Inability to move the eye normally in all directions
- Pain in the eyeball rather than the eye socket
- Severe bleeding in the white of the eye
Is frequent bruising a symptom of something serious?
Unexplained black-and-blue spots may indicate that your child has a tendency to bleed easily. If your child develops bruises that aren't associated with injuries, make an appointment to see your pediatrician.
Also, you should call the doctor if a bruise doesn't fade or go away in 14 days or if your child shows signs of infection, such as pus, unexplained fever, or increased pain and swelling. Call if your child has a bruise on a large joint such as a knee, ankle, elbow, or wrist and is reluctant to use that joint, which could indicate a more serious injury.
Call your pediatrician if your child has banged her head and has a bruise behind the ear. This may be a sign of skull fracture.
If your child has a bruise as a result of an injury to the lower back, check her urine for blood. This could indicate injury to the kidneys or other organs. Call the doctor immediately.
MayoClinic.com, Bruise: First aid. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-bruise/FA00039
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The ABC's of Safe and Healthy Child Care
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Muscle Contusion (Bruise). http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00341