It happens to the best of us. You come home, take off your shirt, and see dozens of marks and bruises from a day playing paintball. Most of the time, these marks are painless and disappear within a day or two, but some might be nasty enough to cause you some concern. Treating welts and bruises from paintball isn’t that hard and doesn’t take anything beyond the stuff you probably already have in your medicine cabinet.
What You’ll Need
There are a few basic items you should have available to treat these minor injuries effectively. You aren’t in any danger if you lack some or all of them, but the marks may take longer to go away and may cause more pain until they do. Try to have as many of these items as you can:
• Alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol
• Cotton balls or gauze
• Large adhesive bandages
• Ibuprofen or Tylenol
Cleaning Off Wounds
The first thing you’ll want to do before treating any injuries is to clean off the area. Dirt and paint can cause complications if they get inside the wound, so even bruises that fail to break the skin should be cleaned off. The best way to do this is with some alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol since you can simultaneously clean and disinfect the injury.
Your primary focus should be to get any dirt or paint off of the affected area. Don’t worry about soaking the welt in alcohol since that can hurt quite a bit and doesn’t help much. I prefer to use cotton balls to wipe away any debris since they’re soft and light enough not to cause any extra pain. Any soft and absorbent product should work, though. I’ve seen guys take used napkins and use them to clean off wounds before.
You don’t need bandages for most bruises and marks, but I recommend covering up anything that breaks the surface level of the skin. You probably aren’t at any risk of infection from a surface-level injury, but clothing and other skin contacts can sting if the injured area stays unprotected. Large store-bought adhesive bandages work great to cover up affected areas and are inexpensive to buy in bulk. Look for knee/elbow or large (a few inches in diameter) spot bandages to get the best coverage for most paintball welts.
I picked up a saying a while back – “A little pain never hurt anybody.” Jokes aside, paintballs can hurt quite a bit, with the worst marks leaving you a stinging pain for days after the injury starts to fade. To numb the pain a bit, you can take common over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol or ibuprofen. You don’t need high dosages to get relief from most of the pain caused by paintball – I usually take the minimum dosage recommended on the side of the bottle. In my experience, these cheap pain medications work better than pain ointments and creams while being far more versatile for other injuries.
What to Expect from Treatment
Welts and bruises go away on their own regardless of the products you use to treat them. Aside from cleaning off the wound, these treatments only serve to reduce the pain you feel from your bruises. You can expect most of the smaller marks to disappear after a day or two and larger welts to last a bit more than a week at most. If they take a little longer to heal, that’s OK – it just means you happened to get hit extra hard during your last day paintballing.
Since these are all surface-level wounds, the risk of infection is very low even from open wounds. Even if you bleed, this comes from tiny blood vessels called capillaries that do not usually spread infection. Still, just to be extra safe, you want to make sure that you use rubbing alcohol or some other kind of antibiotic on any bleeding welts.
Most of the time, pain decreases steadily after each day, but sometimes I find that larger wounds may hurt more the morning after I got hit. My best advice is just to not worry about still feeling these bruises when they do show up.
While paintball welts can hurt quite a bit, they don’t pose any real danger to you. If you’d rather just ignore them entirely and try to push the pain out of your mind, then you probably aren’t at any substantial risk of infection or other medical problems. I’m generally more concerned with heat injuries and ankle sprains when I’m out on the field since those are preventable injuries that can have much greater consequences. Stay safe and try not to worry too much about getting hit.