You hear a cry on the playground, and wonder for a second: “Is that my kid?” Then you see your child running toward you, nose pouring blood.
“It can be quite alarming, to see blood coming from your child,” said Dr. Kelly Watson, a general pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Grovetown, “but most nosebleeds are minor and not dangerous. In fact, nosebleeds are really common in children—I get questions about them all the time.”
Kids ages two to 10 are the most likely to get nosebleeds. And because the nose is an area rich in tiny blood vessels, any irritation to the nose can cause blood to pour out. A major cause is what is referred to as “digital trauma,” said Watson: “Anything from a kid very blatantly picking his or her nose to wiping or rubbing the nose due to allergies or a cold, which could scratch or tear the inside of the nose.”
Indoor dry air in the wintertime from heaters can also dry out the inside of the nose and cause nosebleeds.
Stopping a Nosebleed
Most of the time, some simple home care is all that’s needed to stop the flow of blood.
It’s best to use two fingers to gently “pinch” or apply direct pressure to the lower part of the nose, just above where the nose flares out. “Most nosebleeds in young children start lower down in the nose, and by doing this, you’re pinching the septum, the part of the nose that’s most likely to bleed,” said Watson.
Then hold that pressure for 10 minutes—and actually time it—to give blood a chance to form a clot and for the nosebleed to actually stop. “Don’t stop and open up the nose to check, because that could break the clot open and it could start bleeding again,” said Watson.
Most people are taught to tilt their heads back while holding pressure, but Watson says that’s a myth. “By doing that, you could swallow blood, which could cause you to get sick to your stomach or even vomit,” she said. Instead, have your child lean forward, and if you need to, use a tissue to catch any blood that flows out.
When A Nosebleed Might Be a Bigger Problem
Not all nosebleeds are minor though.
Of course, any child with a nosebleed who also has a head or facial injury—or a broken nose—should be seen by an ER right away.
If a nosebleed lasts more than 20 minutes—despite your best pinching—it’s worth a visit to your doctor. That could mean urgent care, the ER, your pediatrician or your ENT. He or she might need to pack your child’s nose or do another treatment to stop the bleeding.
Sometimes, it’s a vessel higher up in the nose that’s bleeding, and that usually causes a heavier nosebleed.
If your child suffers from allergies, better allergy control could help regular nosebleeds.
Then there’s the scary stuff: If your child is having nosebleeds several times a month, they don’t easily stop with pressure, and there are other signs of bruising or bleeding that doesn’t easily stop, it could be a sign of a possible bleeding disorder. A tumor or growth in the nose—not necessarily cancerous—could also cause frequent bleeding. These are reasons to have your child checked by a doctor.
Something In the Nose?
Finally, another reason your child might have a nosebleed is because he or she stuck something up the nose.
Watson says her sister called her once to tell her that her son had a nosebleed—because he took the head off of his Spiderman toy and stuck it right up his nose. “She got it out by screwing Spiderman’s body back to his head, then pulling it out,” said Watson with a laugh. But, she adds, putting foreign items up the nose could be an emergency, especially if it’s a small item that could be breathed up and go into the airway. “So if you can’t get it out easily, don’t wait, but seek emergency help right away,” she said.