Upper Extremity Bruise (Child)

Your child has a bruise (contusion). It happens when small blood vessels break open and leak blood into the nearby area. An arm (upper extremity) contusion can result from a bump, hit, or fall. Symptoms of a bruise 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 arm may be wrapped to protect it and help reduce swelling. 

Swelling should decrease in a few days. Bruising and pain may take several weeks to go away. Your child can gradually go back to normal activities when swelling has gone down, and they feel 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 arm. You may need to restrict your child's activities for a few days.

  • Raise your child's arm to help ease swelling. 

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

    •  For babies younger than 12 months: A baby who is awake and observed can be placed on their noninjured side with the bruised arm raised. If your baby falls asleep, move them to a flat, firm surface. Never use pillows for sleep or put your baby to sleep on their 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 them 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 ice pack. Apply the cold source to the bruised area for up to 20 minutes. Repeat this a few times a day while your child is awake. Continue for 1 or 2 days, or as instructed. To make an ice pack, place ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the pack in a thin, dry cloth. Don't put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.

  • 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, or as advised.

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. Providers must, by law, ask you these questions. This is done to protect your child. Please try to be patient.

When to get 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 arm

  • The hand on the injured arm feels cold or looks very pale

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