What to Do When Your Child Has a Nosebleed

When the air gets cold and dry, like in winter time, it makes nosebleeds more likely. Children are the most susceptible. Fortunately, there are easy tips for handling and even preventing your child's nosebleeds.

What Causes Nosebleeds?

In most cases, a nosebleed occurs because the tiny vessels inside the nose have broken. This type of nosebleed, called an anterior nosebleed, occurs because the blood flows out of the front (or anterior) part of the nose.

These types of nosebleeds are usually not serious and generally stop by themselves or require only simple steps to stop the bleeding. They rarely require medical attention. Anterior nosebleeds are almost always a result of an irritation inside the nose caused by several factors, including:

  • Extremely cold and/or dry air, which dries out the mucous membranes of the nose
  • Dust, pollen, or other allergens
  • Frequent or forceful blowing of the nose or picking the nose
  • Foreign objects placed inside the nose
  • Trauma to the nose
  • Inflammation due to the common cold or flu
  • Chronic use of nasal steroids

Posterior nosebleeds, on the other hand, are much less common and occur when the blood flow comes from deep inside the nasal cavity and moves down the back (or posterior) of the mouth and throat. They are usually a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition, such as high blood pressure, hemophilia, other bleeding disorders, or a nasal tumor. Blood-thinning medications can also cause posterior nosebleeds.

Who Is Susceptible?

Children and teenagers are most susceptible to anterior nosebleeds, but adults can experience them as well.

What Should You Do?

If your child has a nosebleed that does not stop quickly take the following steps, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

  • Stay calm, otherwise you could upset your child.
  • Keep your child sitting or standing and leaning slightly forward. If your child lies back, the blood will flow down the throat and could cause vomiting. Older children may gently blow their noses.
  • Do not try to stuff tissues or other material into your child's nose to stop the bleeding. Instead, firmly pinch the soft part of the nose using your fingers. Keep the pressure on for 10 minutes. Do not look to see if the bleeding has stopped during this time because you may start the flow again.
  • If the bleeding has not stopped after 10 minutes, repeat the pressure for another 10 minutes.
  • If the bleeding persists after the second try, call your pediatrician or take the child to the nearest hospital emergency department.

A child with severe or recurrent bleeding, or bleeding from both nostrils, should be evaluated by a pediatrician and, if necessary, an ear-nose-throat specialist.

When the bleeding has stopped, children should keep their heads elevated and avoid heavy exertion and nose-blowing for at least an hour.

Prevention

There are several steps you can take to prevent your child from getting anterior nosebleeds, including:

  • Do not keep your home too warm during the winter. This dries out the air.
  • Use a humidifier, vaporizer, or place pans of water on top of radiators or wood stoves during the winter to keep the air moist.
  • Discourage nose picking and forceful nose blowing. .
  • Talk to you doctor about using saltwater nasal sprays or lubrication such as petroleum jelly in your child's nose.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
http://www.entnet.org
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

References

Chronic nosebleeds: what to do. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed February 10, 2016.
Epistaxis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 15, 2014. Accessed February 10, 2016.
Nosebleeds. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 2014. Accessed February 10, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 4/3/2014

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