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Facial Injuries

Facial Injuries

Topic Overview

At one time or another, everyone has had a minor facial injury that caused pain, swelling, or bruising. Home treatment is usually all that is needed for mild bumps or bruises.

It may be helpful to be familiar with the makeup of the facial bones to better understand facial injuries. See a picture of the facial bones .

Causes of facial injuries

Facial injuries most commonly occur during:

  • Sports or recreational activities, such as ice hockey, basketball, rugby, soccer, or martial arts.
  • Work-related tasks or projects around the home.
  • Motor vehicle crashes.
  • Accidental falls.
  • Fights.

In children, most facial injuries occur during sports or play or are caused by accidental falls. Minor facial injuries in young children tend to be less severe than similar facial injuries that occur in older children or adults. Young children are less likely to break a facial bone because they have fat pads that cushion their faces and their bones are more flexible. But young children are more likely to be bitten in the face by an animal.

Head injuries may occur at the same time as a facial injury, so be sure to check for symptoms of a head injury . For more information, see the topic Head Injuries, Age 3 and Younger or Head Injuries, Age 4 and Older.

Types of injuries

Facial injuries may be caused by a direct blow, penetrating injury, or fall. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries include:

  • A cut or puncture to your face or inside your mouth. This often occurs with even a minor injury. But a cut or puncture is likely to occur when a jaw or facial bone is broken. The bone may come through the skin or poke into the mouth.
  • Bruises from a tear or rupture of small blood vessels under the skin. See a picture of a bruise (contusion) .
  • Broken bones (fractures). See an image of a fractured cheekbone .
  • A dislocated jaw, which may occur when the lower jawbone (mandible) is pulled apart from one or both of the joints connecting it to the base of the skull at the temporomandibular (TM) joints. This can cause problems even if the jaw pops back into place.

Treatment

Treatment for a facial injury may include first aid measures, medicine, and in some cases surgery. Treatment depends on:

  • The location, type, and severity of the injury.
  • How long ago the injury occurred.
  • Your age, health condition, and other activities, such as work, sports, or hobbies.

When you have had a facial injury, it is important to look for signs of other injuries, such as a spinal injury , eye injury , or an injury to the mouth, such as a cut lip or injured tooth.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

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Home Treatment

Home treatment may help treat problems and prevent complications after an injury to your face.

First aid for bleeding

Stop the bleeding. Crying increases blood flow to the face and can make a nosebleed or facial bleeding worse. If your injured child is crying, speak in a quiet, relaxed manner to soothe him or her.

First aid for a suspected broken bone

  • Do not move misshapen facial bones. It may make an injury worse, increase bleeding, or cause more problems.
  • Apply an ice or cold pack immediately to prevent or minimize swelling.
  • Seek medical evaluation and treatment.

Measures to reduce pain, swelling, and bruising

  • Use ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply warmth to the area that hurts.
  • Keep your head elevated, even while you sleep. This will help reduce swelling.
  • For the first 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs or hot packs, or drinking alcohol or hot fluids.
  • Do not take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for the first 24 hours. Aspirin prolongs the clotting time of blood and may cause more nose or facial bleeding.
  • Eat soft foods and cold foods and fluids to reduce jaw and mouth pain. Avoid hot foods or beverages, which may increase swelling around the mouth.

Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following symptoms occur during home treatment:

  • Numbness or tingling develop.
  • Changes in vision develop, such as double vision or blurring.
  • Signs of infection develop.
  • Pain and swelling continue or get worse after using home treatment.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.

Prevention

There are many steps you can take to help prevent a facial injury.

  • Always use car safety seats and seat belts to prevent or reduce nose and facial injuries during a car accident.
  • Do not use alcohol or other drugs before participating in sports or when operating a motor vehicle or other equipment.
  • Wear a helmet and other protective clothing whenever you are biking, motorcycling, skating, skateboarding, kayaking, horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, or rock climbing.
  • Wear a mouth protector when you participate in contact sports.
  • Wear a hard hat if you work in an industrial area.
  • Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when you work with power tools or when you do an activity that might cause an object to fly into your face.
  • Do not dive into shallow or unfamiliar water.
  • Prevent falls in your home by removing hazards that might cause a fall.
  • Do not keep guns in your home. If you must keep guns, lock them up and store them unloaded and uncocked. Lock ammunition in a separate area.

You can take steps to help reduce your young child's risk of facial injury.

  • Never leave your child unattended in a high place, such as on a tabletop; in a crib with the sides down; on elevated porches, decks, and landings; or even on a bed or sofa.
  • Do not leave your child alone in any infant seat or sitting toy, such as a swing or jumper. Use all of the safety straps provided.
  • Use stair gates to block stairways. Use gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, and use the gates properly.
  • Do not use baby walkers. Baby walkers have caused many injuries and are not safe even if the baby is watched closely.
  • Watch your child when he or she is outside. Uneven grass, sloping lawns, and hills may be hard for your child to walk on.
  • When your toddler is using a bottle or sippy cup, have him or her stay seated. This can help prevent injuries that might occur if your child were to fall while walking and holding a bottle or a cup.
  • Make your home safe from falls by removing hazards that might cause a fall, such as throw rugs.
  • Place your child in an approved child car seat when traveling in a car. Follow the manufacturer's directions for securing the seat in the car. Children should ride in the back seat for safety.
  • Have your children wear helmets when necessary, such as when they are passengers on a bike or are riding a tricycle or bicycle on their own.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • When did your injury occur?
  • What caused your injury?
  • What are your main symptoms?
  • What have you done so far to treat your injury?
  • Have you had a facial injury in the past?
    • Was your injury evaluated by a doctor?
    • What was the diagnosis?
    • How was your injury treated?
    • Do you have any continuing problems because of the previous injury?
  • Was this injury from abuse caused by another person?
  • Was the use of alcohol or drugs involved in your injury?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription or nonprescription medicines do you take?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised July 25, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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