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What to Do When Your Child Gets a Nosebleed

As a parent, few things can send your heart racing faster than seeing your child with a nosebleed. Whether in the middle of the night or during a fun day at the park, nosebleeds can happen suddenly and leave you and your child feeling anxious.

Fortunately, most nosebleeds are usually not a cause for serious concern and can be easily treated at home. Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of nosebleeds and tips for preventing them altogether.  

What are nosebleeds?

A nosebleed, or epistaxis, happens when the small blood vessels inside the nose break and bleed. These vessels are very close to the surface inside the nose, making them vulnerable to bleeding. 

Nosebleeds can be divided into two types: anterior and posterior. 

“Anterior nosebleeds are the most common and happen in the front part of the nose,” said Alice Antonescu, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health. “Posterior nosebleeds, which are less common and more likely in adults, happen deeper in the nose and blood usually slides down the throat.”

Common causes of nosebleeds in children

“The most common causes of nosebleeds in children are nose picking and trauma,” Dr. Antonescu said.

Children often pick their noses, injuring the sensitive blood vessels. Even a tiny scratch can lead to a nosebleed. Any injury to the nose, whether a fall, bump or rough play, can also cause a nosebleed. 

Other reasons children get nosebleeds include:

  • Dry air: Whether it’s caused by indoor heating during winter or a dry climate, dry air can dry out the nasal membranes, causing them to crack and bleed.
  • Allergies and infections: Allergies and colds can irritate the nasal passages, leading to inflammation and bleeding. Frequent blowing of the nose can also contribute to this irritation.
  • Foreign objects: Children, especially younger ones, might stick small objects into their noses. This can damage the blood vessels and lead to bleeding.
  • Medication: Some medications, like antihistamines and decongestants, can dry out the nasal passages. Blood-thinning medications can also increase the chances of nosebleeds.

“In very rare cases, certain health conditions can make children more prone to nosebleeds,” Dr. Antonescu said. “This includes bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, nasal polyps or nasal tumors.”

Simple first aid tips for managing nosebleeds

While nosebleeds can be alarming, they are usually managed with simple first aid. Here’s how you can help your child if a nosebleed occurs:

  • Stay calm: Try to remain calm and help reassure your child. Panic can make the situation worse for both of you.
  • Sit up and lean forward: Have your child sit straight and lean slightly forward. Do not have them tilt their head back. This position can cause blood to run down the throat, which can irritate the stomach and cause them to throw up. 
  • Pinch the nose: Using your thumb and index finger, gently pinch the soft part of your child’s nose (just below the bony bridge). Hold this position for about 5 to 10 minutes. This pressure helps the blood vessels to close off and stop the bleeding. 
  • Avoid tissues and cotton balls: A scab can form around the tissue or cotton ball and will be pulled off when removed, causing the nose to bleed again. 
  • Breathe through the mouth: Get your child to breathe through their mouth while pinching their nose. This helps keep their airways open and reduces anxiety.
  • Avoid nose blowing: After the bleeding stops, your child must avoid blowing their nose, picking, rubbing or rough play that could cause another nosebleed. 

When to see a health care provider

While most nosebleeds are harmless and can be treated at home, there are times when you should seek medical attention. Contact a health care provider if:

  • The nosebleed lasts longer than 20 minutes, despite applying pressure.
  • Your child has chronic (frequent) nosebleeds.
  • The bleeding is very heavy, or your child feels weak or faint.
  • Your child is bleeding from other places, such as their mouth.
  • You suspect your child has put an object into their nose.
  • Your child shows signs of anemia (paleness, fatigue, shortness of breath).
  • Your child has a known bleeding disorder or is on medication that affects blood clotting. 

“Occasionally, despite all prevention, nose bleeds continue. At this point, an ear, nose and throat specialist can help cauterize the blood vessels in the nose to stop the bleeding,” Dr. Antonescu said.

Preventing nosebleeds

Preventing nosebleeds can often be as simple as making a few changes at home and encouraging healthy habits:

  1. Humidify the air: Using a humidifier in your child’s room can keep the air moist, especially during dry winter months. This helps keep the nasal passages from drying out.
  2. Saline nasal spray: Saline sprays can keep the nasal passages moist and are safe for regular use. Or dab petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) or Aquaphor gently around the opening of the nostrils to keep the area moist. 
  3. Encourage gentle nose blowing: Teach your child to blow their nose gently with a tissue.
  4. Hydration: Ensure your child drinks plenty of water to stay hydrated, which helps keep the nasal tissue moist.
  5. Protective gear: Make sure your child wears protective athletic equipment during sports and activities that could cause a nose injury.
  6. Manage allergies: Work with your child’s provider to manage their allergies. This can decrease nasal irritation and swelling.
  7. Prevent nose-picking: Explain to your child how picking their nose can cause nosebleeds. Keep their fingernails trimmed short to reduce the risk of injury. Provide tissues as an alternative. Praise them when they use tissues instead of picking their nose.

Bottom line

Seeing your child with a nosebleed can be scary, but now you have the skills to handle it like a pro. By understanding the causes and learning a few simple first-aid steps, you can stay calm and help your child feel better quickly. 

Remember, most nosebleeds are harmless and can be taken care of at home. However, if you have concerns, talk to your child’s health care provider or a Banner Health specialist.

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Children's Health Parenting Ear, Nose and Throat