Kids and Bruises: How to Treat Them and When to Worry

Abigail Blank - The Upside Blog |

by | Updated: April 27th, 2018 | Read time: 3 minutes

Scraped knees, bumped elbows and bruised shins are all a normal part of childhood antics. Some kids bruise more easily than others, some bruise more often, and some are just completely accident prone and walk around like a bruise and bump magnet. There are some bruises and bruising that are nothing but normal, some that you should keep an eye on (and can treat with a basic first aid kit), and then from time to time there can be bruises that can be cause for concern. 

Young Boy Sitting in Grass Trying to Figure out Causes of Bruising on Legs |

Here’s a simple set of guidelines to help you decipher when to worry and what to brush off as well as some quick tips for how to treat the typical bumps and bruises that kids get in the course of a typical day of being a kid.

Causes of bruising

Most bruises or bruising that kids get are from doing all of the things that are good and healthy for kids to do. Climbing, tumbling, jumping (and landing not so gracefully)–all of these activities help build strong bones and muscles, increase agility, fine tune motor skills and even strengthen kids’ equilibrium. But in the course of gaining greater skill in these areas your kids can take a lot of falls, run into random things, and crash into other kids.

Bruising on legs and arms is pretty par for the course in these circumstances. Sometimes if the bump is hard enough there can be some swelling, too. For the most part there’s no reason to be alarmed. An ice pack, some arnica gel and elevation if there’s uncomfortable swelling will get you through most of these incidents.

Don’t freak out if you ask your kid where they got a bruise and they have no idea. Some people bruise more easily than others and something as simple as bumping into the corner of a chair or the foot of a bed can leave them with a pretty hefty bruise and no recollection of how it got there.

Bruise healing tips

  • Ice the spot of injury
  • Elevate for swelling
  • Avoid ibuprofen (it can worsen the bruise)
  • Apply a warm compress to speed reabsorption

Keep an eye on these bruises

Any time anyone hits their head, it’s best to watch them closely. In some instances, a knock to the noggin can cause what is commonly called a “goose egg”. These bumps are usually bruised and swollen for a couple of days. As long as you little one didn’t lose consciousness and can remember hitting their head, some ice and rest is probably all they need. Treat any pain with acetaminophen and avoid ibuprofen, it can thin the blood and actually make a bruise worse instead of better. A bump or bruise near the eye can lead to a black eye, which although it can be rather gruesome to look at, is not really dangerous in most respects.

Get this kind of bruise checked out

Did your child hit their head and pass out when they got that lump or bump? Head to the emergency room to check to see if they have a concussion. The same goes if you notice your little one having trouble staying awake, suffering from dizziness or bouts of vertigo, begins vomiting, or has extreme pain. If their actual eyeball is bruised, which usually means the white of their eye is bright blood red, that calls for a trip to the doctor to make sure there is no threat to their vision long term.

Of course, if you’re suspicious that the bruising in areas like ankles, shins, wrists or forearms might be part of a more serious injury like a sprain or broken bone, don’t wait to see how things progress. You’re better safe than sorry in these instances.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends consulting your doctor if you notice your little one having frequent bruising, bruises that worsen or recur, or if they linger longer than two weeks. These symptoms can point to notable but treatable health issues like anemia or a simple genetic predisposition to bruising easily. In rare cases, consistent or increasing occurrence of bruising can be a sign of significant health problems such as bleeding disorders like hemophilia or serious illnesses like leukemia.

When to visit a doctor:

  • If bruises last more than two weeks
  • If your child lost consciousness
  • If you suspect the bruise came with a broken bone
  • If the bruise worsens instead of resolving itself