Nosebleeds are common, and often harmless, but that doesn’t make them any less alarming.
They typically occur when dry air irritates the capillaries inside the nose, causing them to break or bleed. Crusting then occurs that can itch and cause scratching leading to additional bleeding. Dry climates or heated indoor air are often to blame, but colds can also play a part, with repeating nose blowing not playing nice with the lining of the nose. Other causes include allergies, sinus infection or facial injuries.
To stop a nosebleed, you’ll need tissues or a damp cloth under the nose, and you’ll want to make sure your child is not lying down. Tilt your child’s head forward and pinch the soft part of the nose (the nostrils) together just below the bony center for five minutes. This applies pressure to stop the blood flow and should stop the nosebleed within 10 minutes. But it has to be steady pressure, so don’t keep checking to see if the bleeding has stopped.
If that doesn’t work, repeat the process for 10 minutes and if it still doesn’t work, see a doctor.
Things not to do
Don’t blow the nose, because that can cause additional nosebleeds; and, even though you might have seen this a hundred times in the movies or on TV, don’t tilt your child’s head back. This will cause blood to run back into the throat and could lead to coughing, choking and even vomiting. Do not stuff the nose with facial tissues as this encourages further bleeding. Milk the nose after gentle blowing and do not go in the nose with tissues as they act like sandpaper inside the nose.
Preventing nosebleeds can be as simple as using a humidifier at home, or using ointment that keeps your child’s nostrils moisturized. Then, of course, it’s always good to remind your child to not pick his or her nose.
Most nosebleeds are easily controlled, but frequent nosebleeds — more than once a week — should be brought to the attention of a pediatrician. It’s possible that your child might need to be evaluated by a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist.
The Ear, Nose and Throat Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin provides specialized medical and surgical care to children, infancy through adolescence, who have problems with their ears, noses or throats.
Learn more about Stephen Conley, MD, MS.