A bruise is a mark on your skin caused by blood trapped under the surface. It happens when an injury crushes small blood vessels but does not break the skin. Those vessels break open and leak blood under the skin.

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Bruises are often painful and swollen. You can get skin, muscle and bone bruises. Bone bruises are the most serious.

It can take months for a bruise to fade, but most last about two weeks. They start off a reddish color, and then turn bluish-purple and greenish-yellow before returning to normal. To reduce bruising, ice the injured area and elevate it above your heart. Instruct the person to talk to a healthcare provider if hr or she seems to bruise for no reason, or if the bruise appears to be infected.

Bruises do not always occur at the exact site of the trauma, as gravity can cause them to appear in another location.

Bruises can be a sign of internal bleeding. If there is external bleeding in addition to bruising, attempt to stop the bleeding before attending to the bruising. General measures for stopping bleeding are as follows:

  1. Locate the source of the bleeding.
  2. Wash your hands and, when possible, wear gloves or use a barrier between you and the wound.
  3. Remove any loose debris. Note: Do NOT pull debris from a wound that is embedded.
  4. With a sterile or clean dressing, apply direct pressure.
  5. Unless a broken bone is suspected, elevate the injured area above the heart.

If the bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes of the above measures, seek prompt medical care.

Self-care measures for bruises are as follows:

  1. Apply a cold compress to the affected area to reduce the swelling. Note: Do not put ice directly on the skin. Cold compresses can be applied for 30–60 minutes a day until the bruising subsides.
  2. If the bruise is on an extremity (eg, arm or leg), raise it above the heart to reduce the flow of blood to the affected area.

Take a pain reliever (eg, acetaminophen, Tylenol) for pain, if needed.


We also offer a free certificate of completion. To receive the certificate you must pass a 50-question test with a score of 70 or higher. Check our Basic First Aid Certificate of Completion page for more information.

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