Nosebleeds are very common in children. Although a bleeding nose can be scary for both you and your child, you don’t usually need to worry about it. The amount of blood your child loses from a nosebleed won’t usually harm him.
Causes of a bleeding nose
Children can get a nosebleed if they:
- pick at their nose
- bump their nose or blow their nose too hard
- get something stuck up their nose
- have allergies
- get an infection in their nose, throat or sinuses
- use medications like nose sprays
- strain to do a poo when they’re constipated.
Some children get a lot of nosebleeds. This can happen if their noses are irritated by dry air, nasal medication or infection. Cold weather and low humidity make nosebleeds more likely because these conditions dry out the mucus in children’s noses.
More rare causes of nosebleeds include bleeding disorders and other systemic diseases.
The medical name for a bleeding nose is epistaxis.
With a nosebleed, it helps to remember that although it might look like a lot of blood, usually there isn’t that much.
When to see a doctor about nosebleeds
You should take your child to see your GP if:
- the bleeding hasn’t stopped after 20 minutes, despite firm pressure on the nose
- your child is also generally unwell, looks pale or has unexplained bruises on her body
- your child is less than two years old and has a bleeding nose
- your child has regular nosebleeds.
The first step to treating a nosebleed is staying calm. This will help settle your child if he’s upset by the sight and taste of blood. Crying can make the nosebleed worse.
Then the next step is to apply firm pressure with your finger and thumb on the sides of the nostrils (the soft part of the nose).
Continue this for 10 minutes with your child sitting up and keeping her head still and slightly tilted forward. Don’t lie her down or tilt her head back. Wait the full 10 minutes – don’t keep checking to see whether the bleeding has stopped.
If your child’s nose is still bleeding after 10 minutes of pressure, repeat the process again for another 10 minutes.
Once the bleeding has stopped, encourage your child not to blow or pick his nose for about 24 hours. This will help the blood clot in his nose to strengthen.
Your child might vomit during or after a nosebleed if she has swallowed some blood. This is pretty normal, and your child should spit out the blood.
When the bleeding won’t stop
If you can’t stop the bleeding with the treatment steps above, you should take your child to the GP or hospital emergency department.
The doctor might put some cream or ointment up your child’s nose to help stop the bleeding.
Another treatment can involve nose-packing. This is where the doctor puts a special cloth dressing into your child’s nose. Your child will need a follow-up appointment 24-48 hours later to have the dressing taken out.
Cautery is another common treatment. This is where a special chemical is used to seal off the bleeding and ‘freeze’ the blood vessel. Doctors usually use anaesthetic for cautery.
Very rarely your child might need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist and go into hospital for treatment.
After a bleeding nose
Here’s what to do after your child has had a bleeding nose:
- Ensure your child rests over the next 24 hours.
- Keep your child out of hot baths.
- Encourage your child not to pick or blow her nose.
Sometimes a doctor will recommend that your child uses a saline nasal spray or lubricating ointment to help with dryness. The doctor might also recommend using an antibiotic ointment, which you’ll need to put up your child’s nose.