At Westchester Health, we’ve seen our share of nosebleeds over the years. Starting when your child is in preschool and continuing through the teenage years, periodic nosebleeds are just a fact of life, explains Heather Magnan, MD, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, in a recent blog. Although nosebleeds can be alarming, most are not serious. Here’s what might be causing them and how you can treat, and hopefully even prevent, them.
What causes nosebleeds
A wide range of factors can cause nosebleeds, including:
- Colds and allergies: A cold or allergy causes swelling and irritation inside the nose and may lead to spontaneous bleeding.
- Trauma: A child can get a nosebleed from picking his/her nose, or putting something into it, or just blowing it too hard. A nosebleed can also result from being hit in the nose by a ball or other object, or from falling hitting the nose.
- Low humidity or irritating fumes: If your house is very dry, or if you live in a dry climate, the lining of your child’s nose may dry out, making it more likely to bleed. In addition, if he/she is frequently exposed to toxic fumes, this can cause nosebleeds.
- Anatomical problems: Any abnormal structure inside the nose can lead to crusting and bleeding.
- Abnormal growths: Abnormal tissue growing in the nose may cause bleeding. Although most of these growths (usually polyps) are benign, they still should be evaluated promptly by your child’s pediatrician.
- Abnormal blood clotting: Anything that interferes with blood clotting can lead to nosebleeds. Medications, even common ones like aspirin, can alter the body’s blood-clotting mechanism just enough to cause bleeding. Blood diseases, such as hemophilia or platelet disorders, also can provoke nosebleeds.
- Chronic illness: A child with a long-term illness, or who requires extra oxygen or other medication that can dry out or affect the lining of the nose, is likely to have nosebleeds.
The do’s and don’ts of treating nosebleeds
- Remain calm. A nosebleed can be scary, for you and your child, but is rarely serious.
- Keep your child in a sitting or standing position. Tilt the head slightly forward and have your child gently blow his/her nose if old enough.
- Pinch the lower half of your child’s nose (the soft part) between your thumb and finger and hold it firmly for a full ten minutes. If your child is old enough, he/she can do this him/herself. Do not release the nose to see if it is still bleeding. After ten minutes, release the pressure and wait, keeping your child quiet. If the bleeding has not stopped, repeat this step. If after ten more minutes of pressure, the bleeding has still not stopped, call your pediatrician or go to the nearest emergency department.
- Panic. This will just scare your child more.
- Have your child lie down or tilt back the head.
- Stuff tissues, gauze or any other material into your child’s nose to stop the bleeding.
It’s time to call your pediatrician if:
- You think your child may have lost too much blood. (Keep in mind that blood coming out of the nose always looks like a lot.)
- Blood is coming from your child’s mouth, or he/she is coughing up or vomiting blood or brown material that looks like coffee grounds.
- Your child is unusually pale or sweaty or is not responsive. Call your pediatrician immediately in this case and take your child straight to the emergency room.
- Your child has a lot of nosebleeds, along with a chronically stuffy nose. This may signal a broken blood vessel in the nose or on the surface of the lining of the nose, or a growth in the nasal passages.
How to prevent your child’s nosebleeds
- Keep the inside of the nose moist. Nasal dryness can cause nosebleeds. An over the counter nasal saline spray or gel may be used daily as often as needed.
- Use a vaporizer or humidifier. Your child’s nostrils might be dry because the air in your house is dry. A humidifier or vaporizer will help maintain your home’s humidity at a level high enough to prevent nasal drying.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking (including secondhand smoke) can irritate the inside of the nose and dry it out.
- Don’t pick the nose. Also, don’t blow or rub it too hard. If your child is getting nosebleeds, keep his/her fingernails short and discourage him/her from picking his/her nose.
- Don’t use allergy nose sprays too often. These can also dry out the nose. In some cases, certain medications can cause nosebleeds or make them worse so discuss all medications with your child’s doctor.
If you’re concerned about your child’s nosebleeds, please come see us.
If your child is experiencing nosebleeds more frequently than seems normal, please come in and see one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. Together, we’ll figure out what might be causing them and what would be the most effective ways to stop and/or prevent them from recurring. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Magnan’s blog in full, click here.