Paintball allows you to enjoy quality time with friends while engaging in physical activity. But if you’re new to paintball, there’s one aspect of the game you may not expect: injury.

Paintball is a safe game, for the most part. But since it involves shooting paintballs at an opponent, there are risks of minor injuries like bruises and welts. This can happen to anyone who isn’t properly protected.

Before you participate in a game of paintball, make sure you know the difference between paintball bruises and welts, as well as how to treat and avoid these injuries.

Some people use the terms welts and bruises interchangeably, but there are differences between the two. Both occur from a blow to the skin, such as getting hit with a paintball while playing the game.

However, a paintball welt is a raised mark that forms on the skin after a hit. A bruise, on the other hand, is a purplish or brownish mark caused by blood leaking from a damaged capillary under the skin.

The difference in appearance is how you can distinguish a paintball welt from a paintball bruise. The skin isn’t only raised with a paintball welt. You may also notice tiny red bumps on the raised part of your skin, and your skin may be swollen. If you have a bruise, you’ll have discoloration underneath your skin which can gradually spread.

Both welts and bruises can be painful or tender to the touch. Skin inflammation may persist for several days, or until the bruise or welt disappears.

Although paintball bruises and paintball welts gradually disappear on their own within days or weeks, at-home treatment can help your skin repair itself sooner. The goal of treatment is to reduce swelling and soothe pain.

These marks are different, but you can use the same healing techniques on both to ease inflammation, swelling, and discoloration.

Here are some treatment tips to follow:

1. Wash the affected area

Before administering treatment, wash a paintball bruise or welt with warm soapy water. This removes any dirt, debris, and blood from the wound. Keeping the area clean also helps prevent a skin infection.

Gently dry the bruise or welt with a cloth. Don’t apply alcohol to an open wound, or else your skin may burn or sting.

2. Apply a warm or cold compress

Applying a cold compress to a paintball welt or bruise helps constricts the blood vessels underneath your skin. This minimizes blood flow and helps relieve bruising and swelling.

Once you’re able to control any bruising and swelling, switch to a hot or warm compress. Heat can ease inflammation and soothe pain. Apply a hot or cold compress in 15-minute intervals. Allow your skin to rest for at least an hour before reapplying the compress.

3. Take over-the-counter pain medication

A serious paintball bruise or welt can be painful. When a compress doesn’t relieve your pain, take over-the-counter (OTC) medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin).

Make sure to follow the directions on the packaging.

4. Elevate the affected area

Keep the bruised or welted part of your body — such as your arm or leg — elevated, if possible. Elevation helps restrict blood flow to the affected area, which can lessen swelling and inflammation. Stack pillows on top of each other and then rest your leg or arm on top of the pillows.

5. Soak in Epsom salt

Soreness is normal after a game of paintball. If you’re sore, add a half cup of Epsom salt to your bathwater and soak for about 20 minutes to relax sore muscles and reduce skin inflammation.

Soaking in Epsom salt may not eliminate a bruise or welt, but it can ease pain caused by them.

6. Topical natural remedies

Applying topical vitamin K lotion may help your skin heal if you have bruising and swelling after being hit with a paintball. This is effective because vitamin K helps the blood clot, reducing bleeding underneath the skin. Researchers have found that applying aloe vera and vitamin K to a bruise or welt may also lessen pain and inflammation.

In a 2010 study, the herb arnica was also found to reduce inflammation and swelling. It also helped bruises heal quicker. You can purchase arnica ointment. Follow the directions on the package to apply the ointment.

The anti-inflammatory benefits of witch hazel on the skin may also provide temporary pain relief and promote healing.

The best way to prevent paintball bruises and welts is to avoid getting hit while playing the sport. This might be easier said than done. So, it’s important to wear enough protective clothing to keep your skin safe.

Here are some tips to prevent bruises and welts from occurring:

  • Don’t expose your skin. Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and boots.
  • Wear padding or dress in multiple layers of clothes. This reduces the force of a paintball against your skin.
  • Wear a helmet. Protecting your head from paintballs is important.
  • Don’t forget your goggles. Paintball blows don’t only damage the skin, they can also damage your eyes if they’re not protected.
  • Change your body stance. This can help you to avoid multiple hits in the same spot.

Paintball bruises and welts can be painful, but your skin will eventually heal. The length of time it takes for a welt or bruise to heal varies depending on the extent of trauma.

Typically, welts heal faster than a bruise. Whereas a welt can gradually disappear in a couple of days, it might take up to two weeks for a bruise to heal completely. The bruise will become lighter and lighter until it’s no longer noticeable.

In the meantime, continue at-home remedies until your skin clears.

Bruises are usually harmless, but you should see a doctor if your bruise is extremely painful or if you have difficulty moving a joint.