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First Aid and Emergencies

Bruises

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Bruises (contusions) are caused by ruptured blood vessels under the skin. Blood seeps into the surrounding tissues, causing the black-and-blue colour of a bruise.

Bruises usually develop after a bump or fall. People who take aspirin or blood thinners (anticoagulants) may bruise easily. A bruise may also develop after blood is drawn.

A black eye is a type of bruise. If you have a black eye, apply Home Treatment for a bruise and inspect the eye for blood. If there is any loss of or change in your vision or if you cannot move your eye in all directions, see a doctor.

Home Treatment

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  • Apply ice or cold packs for 15 minutes every 1 to 2 hours. Do this for the first 72 hours to help blood vessels constrict and to reduce swelling. The sooner you apply ice, the less bleeding there will be.

  • If possible, elevate the bruised area above the level of your heart. Blood will leave the area and there will be less swelling.

  • Rest the injured limb so you don't injure it further.

  • If the area is still painful after 72 hours, apply heat with warm towels, a hot water bottle, or a heating pad.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If signs of infection develop:

    • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or tenderness (after the initial bruise).

    • Heat or red streaks extending away from the area.

    • Discharge of pus.

    • Fever of 37.8°C (100°F) or higher with no other cause.

  • If pain increases or if your ability to use or move the bruised part decreases.

  • If a blow to the eye causes:

    • Blood in the coloured part of the eye or blood in the white part of the eye (See Blood in the Eye).

    • Loss of or change in vision.

    • Inability to move the eye normally in all directions.

    • Severe pain in the eyeball rather than in the eye socket.

  • If you suddenly begin to bruise easily, or if you have unexplained recurrent or multiple bruises.

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