Nosebleeds can be frightening, especially when they occur without warning, but bloody noses usually aren’t as worrisome as they might appear
WRITTEN BY Jenny Peterson
PHOTOGRAPH BY Patcharin Simalhek
A sudden trickle of blood coming down a nostril or an unexpected red bloom on a tissue can be a shocking sight for a parent. If your child hasn’t sustained an injury, you might wonder what’s going on up there.
Nosebleeds (medically known as epistaxis) happen when a small blood vessel in the lining of the nose bursts. One in seven Americans will experience a nosebleed at some point in life, often between the ages of two and 10. Thankfully, “most nosebleeds aren’t a major issue,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated ENT specialist Dr. Thomas Dozier.
The most common type, anterior nosebleeds, result from dryness and irritation of the nasal mucosa (lining). Frequent causes include dry air from heaters, spring allergies, sinus infections and nose-picking, although nosebleeds can also be a side effect of blood thinners.
The best way to stop a nosebleed is to have your child sit upright and squeeze the fleshy part of the nose continuously for at least five minutes while tilting slightly forward. “Leaning the head forward prevents blood from going down the throat, which can cause nausea and vomiting,” explains Dr. Dozier. Encourage the child to relax and breathe through their mouth. An ice pack may also help slow bleeding. “Nosebleeds typically stop on their own, since nasal blood vessels heal quickly,” says the doctor.
Seek medical attention if the nosebleed lasts longer than 20 minutes, involves heavy bleeding, interferes with breathing or starts in the back of the nasal passage near the throat. (Called posterior nosebleeds, these can be a sign of something more serious.) You’ll also want to see a doctor if your child suffers from chronic nosebleeds (three or more times a week for multiple weeks). Treatment for persistent epistaxis may include nasal cautery, in which an electrical device is used to seal mucous membranes.
Nosebleeds are seldom cause for alarm. Parents can breathe easier knowing that they’re primarily harmless and usually manageable with at-home solutions.
Against the Flow
Follow these easy steps at home to help prevent nosebleeds:
• Avoid picking your nose, and tell children to do the same.
• Add moisture to the air with a humidifier, especially when running home heaters during the colder months.
• Use an over-the-counter saline spray or gel to moisturize the inside of the nose.
• Apply Vaseline inside the nose to provide a protective seal.
• Take care not to vigorously blow your nose.
• Wear protective equipment when playing contact sports.
• Keep children’s nails trimmed short, as fingernails can easily break nasal blood vessels.
• Use decongestant nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) to constrict nasal blood vessels.