A forehead bump, medically termed a hematoma but also known as a “goose egg,” is a common injury among children and adults alike. It’s so common that most people do not feel the need to go to the doctor, but are comfortable administering home treatment instead. This is appropriate when symptoms do not include nausea, vomiting, or disorientation. The question is, which home treatment is better: ice or heat?
Before deciding which treatment is best, it’s useful to understand what exactly happens when you get a forehead bump. The trauma to the body results in bleeding under the skin that causes swelling. As the swelling progresses, more fluid continues to collect in the area, contributing to even more swelling.
Ice for a Forehead Bump
The best way to reduce swelling from a forehead bump, or any other type of injury for that matter, is to apply ice immediately after the injury has occurred. The initial reaction to the application of cold is vasoconstriction, or the tightening of blood vessels. This helps reduce swelling by limiting the amount of blood that can flow to the area.
As the cold penetrates the skin and tissue below the skin, it slows down cellular activity. This means that there is less cell division, less cell death, and therefore, less production of cellular waste. This also helps control swelling as the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response starts to kick in.
Adding compression with the application of ice can provide even more benefits. Controlled compression enhances surface contact to optimize the benefits of cold therapy.
Heat for a Forehead Bump
Applying heat to an injury does indeed feel good, but it’s not necessarily the best option immediately after a forehead bump. When heat is applied to the skin, the body’s natural reaction is to increase blood flow to the area. Although this can be beneficial in the days after incurring an injury, in the first 24-48 hours it is more important to reduce swelling. Increasing blood flow to the area is counter to this objective because it can actually increase swelling.
After the first 24 hours, when only ice should be applied, short applications of heat (about 15 minutes at a time) can help promote healing by opening up blood vessels so freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients can reach the damaged tissues.
Next time you, a family member, or a teammate gets a forehead bump, remember to ice the injury immediately to limit the amount of swelling that occurs. Continue to apply cold therapy throughout the first 24-48 hours. If you want to apply heat, wait at least a day. You can continue to apply cold and compression until the swelling subsides.
To get the most from cold and compression therapy, consider using the Cryo Cap from Game Ready. This innovative wrap combines therapeutic cold and controlled compression in a single, easy-to-use cap that adjusts to fit any head size. Ask your doctor or athletic trainer about getting Game Ready next time you get a forehead bump, or find a provider near you today.