Nose bleeds

Nosebleeds (epistaxis) may seem frightening but are usually not dangerous. Nosebleeds are fairly common in children, especially among those who live in dry climates. Nosebleeds are also common during the winter when dry heat inside homes and buildings can cause drying, cracking, or crusting inside the nose. Most nosebleeds in children occur in the front part of the nose close to the nostrils, where there are many fragile blood vessels that can be damaged easily. Children usually outgrow the tendency to have nosebleeds during their teenage years.

What causes a nosebleed?

Some of the most common causes are:

  • picking the nose
  • blowing the nose too hard
  • injury to the nose
  • over-dry air
  • colds and allergies
  • foreign body in the nose

Many times no apparent cause for a nosebleed can be found.

How are nosebleeds treated?

Calm your child and let him or her know you can help.

  • Pinch the nostrils together for five to 10 minutes without checking to see if bleeding has stopped.
  • Have your child sit up and lean forward to avoid swallowing blood.
  • Apply ice or a cold water compress to the bridge of the nose.
  • If bleeding does not stop, try the above steps one more time.
  • Do not pack your child’s nose with tissues or gauze.

When should I call my child’s physician?

Your child’s physician will determine if your child’s nosebleed requires more than minor first-aid treatment. You should call your child’s physician if:

  • you are unable to stop the nosebleed or if it recurs
  • your child also has a nose injury that may indicate a more serious problem (such as a fractured nose or other trauma to the head)
  • there is a large amount or rapid loss of blood
  • your child feels faint, weak, ill, or has trouble breathing
  • your child has bleeding from other parts of the body (such as in the stool, urine, or gums) or bruises easily
  • there is a foreign body stuck in your child’s nose

How can I prevent nosebleeds in my child?

Here are some general guidelines to follow if your child has frequent nosebleeds:

  • Use a cool mist humidifier in your child’s room at night if the air in your home is dry. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s advice for cleaning the humidifier so that germs and mold do not grow in it.
  • Teach your child not to pick his/her nose or blow it too forcefully.
  • Apply petroleum jelly inside the nostrils several times a day, especially at bedtime, to help keep the area moist.
  • Use saline (salt water) drops or a saline nose spray as directed by your child’s physician.
  • See your child’s physician for treatment of allergies that may contribute to frequent nosebleeds.