DEMO - KidsHealth (Naked feed)
Your Information Here






What's a Bruise?

If you're an active kid — or are a little clumsy — you've probably had a bruise or two. But what are those funny-colored marks on your body, exactly?

A bruise is also called a contusion (say: kun-TOO-zhun). Some people bruise easily, while others have tougher skin tissue.

How Do Bruises Happen?

Bruises form when the soft tissues of the body get bumped. When they do, small veins and capillaries (the tiniest blood vessels) under the skin sometimes break. Red blood cells leak out of these blood vessels. These red blood cells that collect under your skin cause that bluish, purplish, reddish, or blackish mark. That's where black-and-blue marks get their name — from their color under the skin.

Bruises go through colorful changes as the body begins to heal itself. The color changes mean that your body is metabolizing (say: meh-TAB-oh-lye-zing), or breaking down, the blood cells in the skin. This is the process that your body goes through to repair itself.

The Phases of a Bruise

Imagine a baseball hits you in the leg. Ouch! Your body will go through these phases:

  • First, you'll probably have a bump that will look red or purplish and tender. The bump might swell from the blood collecting under the tissue.
  • After a couple of days, the bruise will look blue or even blackish.
  • After 5 to 10 days, it may look greenish or even yellow.
  • After 10 to 14 days, the bruise will most likely be a light brown, then get lighter and lighter as it fades away.

How Long Do Bruises Last?

Most bruises will disappear after 2 weeks, and some go away even sooner. If a bruise does not go away after 2 weeks, let your parent know.

To help reduce swelling or the amount of bruising after an injury, apply a cold compress to the bruise for at least 10 minutes. And be sure to wear a helmet and protective pads to help you avoid getting bruises!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: March 2018

A KidsHealth Education Partner

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.

Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.