How to avoid getting black and blue

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 September, 2009, 12:00am

Some people bruise really easily while others can sustain hard knocks without a mark. So what is a bruise anyway?

Bruising can occur as a result of an injury or a knock; blood vessels underneath the skin break or burst and blood leaks out. This causes the purplish reddish mark we call a bruise.

Special kinds of cells called platelets come to the rescue of burst blood vessels by plugging up the cracks or breaks to stop the bleeding.

Depending on the severity of the bruise, the blood underneath the skin will get reabsorbed and recycled back in the body within anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

You'll notice during the healing process, as the blood gets reabsorbed, the colour of the bruise changes from reddish purple to green, yellow and then brown.

The amount of fat covering the body determines how easily a person bruises because fat provides padding that cushions the body against harm or injury. People who have a thin layer of body fat tend to bruise more easily.

First aid for bruises

When you get a bruise, apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area quickly for 10 minutes, then on and off for the next 48 hours. If you don't have one, a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel will do.

Don't apply the compress directly onto the skin or else you'll end up with frostbite.

The cold helps to reduce swelling and limits the blood flow, which reduces the amount of blood leaked to the surrounding tissues.

After 48 hours, your blood vessels will have started to heal and blood flow stopped. This is the time to apply a warm wet facecloth to the bruise for about 10 minutes at a time two to three times a day. What this does is increase blood flow to the bruise thus allowing the skin to reabsorb blood more quickly.

If the bruise is on your leg or shin, lie down and prop your leg up. This slows down the blood flow to the bruise and subsequent leakage to the surrounding area.

Arnica cream is a remedy for bruises and sprains. Arnica is a plant found in the mountains of some European countries.

It's thought that Arnica works by stimulating the activity of white blood cells which process trapped blood by releasing fluids from bruised tissue.

Preventing bruises

If you play a lot of sports, make sure you wear protective gear.

Avoid dietary supplements such as fish oil, garlic, ginger and ginkgo biloba - these can increase your chances of bruising.

Get enough vitamin C (from citrus fruits especially) and vitamin K (from green leafy veggies).

Vitamin C strengthens the walls of blood vessels. Vitamin K helps improve blood clotting time and works together with vitamin C to repair body cells.