Lower Extremity Bruise (Child)

Your child has a bruise (contusion). It happens when small blood vessels break open and leak blood into the nearby area. A leg (lower extremity) contusion can result from a bump, hit, or fall. Symptoms of a contusion often include changes in skin color (bruising), swelling, and pain. It may take several hours for a deep bruise to show up. If the injury is severe, your child may need an X-ray to check for broken bones.

The leg may be wrapped to protect it and help reduce swelling. If pain makes it hard to use the leg, the child may need crutches to get around for a few days.

Swelling should decrease in a few days. Bruising and pain may take several weeks to go away. Your child can gradually return to normal activities when the swelling has gone down and he or she feels better. 

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for your child at home:

  • Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for pain and inflammation. Follow all instructions for giving these to your child.

  • Have your child rest the leg. You may need to restrict your child's activities for a few days.

  • Elevate your child's leg to help ease swelling. 

    • For children 1 year and older: When sitting or lying down, have your child elevate the leg above the level of his or her heart as often as possible. Pillows can be used to elevate his or her bruised leg. 

    • For babies younger than 12 months: A baby who is awake and observed can be placed on his or her non-injured side with the bruised leg elevated. If your baby falls asleep, move him or her to a flat, firm surface. Never use pillows for sleep or put your baby to sleep on his or her stomach or side. Babies younger than 12 months should sleep on a flat surface on their back. Don't use car seats, strollers, swings, baby carriers, or baby slings for sleep. If your baby falls asleep in one of these, move him or her to a flat, firm surface as soon as you can.

  • Use cold to help reduce swelling and pain. For babies and toddlers, wet a clean cloth with cold water, then wring it out. For older children, use a cold pack or a plastic bag of ice cubes wrapped in a thin, dry cloth.  Apply the cold source to the bruised area for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this a few times a day while your child is awake. Continue for 1 or 2 days, or as instructed.

  • When the swelling has gone away, start using warm compresses. This is a clean cloth that’s damp with warm water. Apply this to the area for 10 minutes, several times a day.

  • If your child was given a wrap, follow instructions for how to use it and when to remove it.

  • Follow any other instructions you were given.

  • Keep in mind that bruising may take several weeks to go away.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider.

Special note to parents

Healthcare providers are trained to see injuries such as this in young children as a sign of possible abuse. You may be asked questions about how your child was injured. Healthcare providers are required by law to ask you these questions. This is done to protect your child. Please try to be patient.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if your child has any of these:

  • Bruising that gets worse

  • Pain or swelling that doesn't get better or that gets worse

  • Numbness or tingling of the injured leg

  • The foot on the injured leg feels cold or looks very pale

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