One moment, your child is calmly playing with his toys. The next, he’s walking over to you looking like something out of a horror movie—holding his nose as blood appears to gush from his face.
Typically, any time your child has blood exiting their bodies, it could be a cause for alarm. However, nosebleeds are usually not that serious and most can be cared for at home.
A nosebleed, also called epistaxis, is the loss of blood from the tissue that lines the inside of your nose. Your nose contains fragile blood vessels close to the surface in the lining of your nose, which make it an easy target for injury and nosebleeds.
“Nosebleeds are fairly common in children, especially in dry, arid climates or during winter months,” said Brenda Kronborg, DO, a pediatrician with Banner Children's - Banner Health Clinic in Mesa, AZ. “These environments cause the nasal membranes to dry out and become cracked and more likely to bleed when rubbed or picked at, or when blowing your nose.”
Dr. Kronborg shares common causes for your child’s nosebleeds and how to prevent future ones.
Sometimes there is no apparent cause for a nosebleed, but the most common reasons are due to the following:
- Nose picking or scratching
- Colds and allergies (or non-allergic rhinitis)
- Blowing their noses too hard
- Inserting objects into their noses
- Injury to the nose and/or face
- Dry air from heated indoor air or a dry climate
“In very rare cases, however, a nosebleed could be caused by an underlying health condition, such as a bleeding disorder, high blood pressure, nasal polyps or nasal tumors,” Dr. Kronborg said. “If your child is experiencing nosebleeds that aren’t associated with these common causes, raise your concerns with their doctor or pediatrician.”
Also call your child’s pediatrician if:
- They have frequent nosebleeds
- You are unable to stop the nosebleed
- There is a large amount or rapid loss of blood
- They are under two years of age
- They are also bleeding from other places, such as their mouth
- You notice unusual bruising all over their bodies along with their nosebleed
- If they recently started a new medication
- A foreign object is stuck in their nose
If a blood vessel is causing the problem, your child may be referred to a specialist to determine if cauterizing the area can help stop the bleeding.
Follow these steps the next time your child has a nosebleed:
- Try and remain calm so you don’t scare your child.
- Have them sit upright in a chair or stand up straight and tilt their head slightly forward. Do not have them lie down or tilt their head back as this may cause blood to flow down the back of the throat.
- Gently pinch the soft part of their nose with a tissue or washcloth, just below the bridge of the nose, and hold for about 10 minutes without letting go. If you stop too early, your child’s nose may start bleeding again.
- Avoid stuffing tissue, gauze or other materials into their nostrils to stop the bleeding.
- If bleeding doesn’t stop, try the above steps again.
- Once the bleeding stops, have them avoid strenuous activity or horseplay and avoid picking, blowing or rubbing their nose.
“The best treatment for common nosebleeds is to help keep your child’s nose stay moist and avoid picking or scratching inside their noses,” Dr. Kronborg said. “You can accomplish this by using a humidifier in their bedroom and putting petroleum jelly using a Q-tip just inside the nose before bedtime.”
Even with proper precautions, your child may try to “dig for gold” and may occasionally strike something else. Remember, nosebleeds are typically harmless, and many children outgrow them during their teenage years.