How to treat and prevent nosebleeds in children
Nosebleeds in Children
Nosebleeds can seem scary, but they are usually harmless. Here's what you need to know to help your child.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Nosebleeds in children can be scary. The good news is that even though the gushing blood may look alarming, nosebleeds are rarely serious. Most nosebleeds will stop on their own within a few minutes and do not require a trip to the doctor's office. If the cause is an injury, especially a sports injury like a head-on collision during a soccer game or other physical activity, then you’ll want to call your pediatrician for advice.
Nosebleeds in Children: How They Happen
"The most common cause of nosebleeds in children is irritation from a common cold, allergies, or really dry air," says Barbara Frankowski, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and a pediatrician at Vermont Children's Hospital in Burlington, Vt.
This irritation of the mucus membranes inside the nose, along with nose-picking, can damage them and cause bleeding, says Dr. Frankowski.
Usually, the small blood vessels in the front of the nose are the ones affected during a nosebleed, and the bleeding will stop within a few minutes. Bleeding from the vessels in the back of the nose can take longer to stop and may need medical attention.
Other causes of nosebleeds in kids include:
- Sticking small objects up the nose
- Blood clotting disorders
- Cocaine use
Sometimes it’s just not possible to tell the cause.
How to Prevent Nosebleeds
"If you have dry air in your house and the mucus membranes of the nose are getting dried out, that can irritate the nose," says Frankowski. Placing a humidifier in your child's room, especially during the dry winter months, can put moisture back in the air and prevent your child's nose from drying out to the point of bleeding.
Another way to prevent nosebleeds in children is to keep them from picking their nose; clip their fingernails often — it’s harder to pick with short nails!
If your child does get a nosebleed, have him or her sit straight up, with a slight forward lean. "Leaning too far forward with your head lower than your heart will make [a nosebleed] worse because more blood will rush to the area," says Frankowski. "And leaning back will cause the child to swallow the blood." This can cause an upset stomach.
In addition, take your thumb and index finger and squeeze the soft portion of your child's nose, the part between the end of the nose and the bony bridge. Keep pressure on the nose until the bleeding stops. Check after 10 minutes or so.
When to Get Medical Advice
Call your pediatrician if your child has frequent nosebleeds, or if he or she gets a nosebleed that continues for more than 15 minutes, since this may signal a more serious problem. Also call your pediatrician if the nosebleed was caused by an injury that may have broken the nose.
In addition to applying pressure to a bleeding nose, doctors have other options available to stop the bleeding. A doctor might pack the nose, which involves filling the nostrils with gauze or an inflatable balloon to place pressure directly on bleeding vessels to control the blood flow.
Remember to keep your cool and keep your child calm while the nosebleed subsides. All that blood can look scary, but in most cases, the nose heals quickly and painlessly.
Video: How to Treat a Nosebleed - Dr. Julie Wei, Nemours Children's Hospital
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