What to Do When Your Kid Gets a Nosebleed

Child with nosebleed

It happens in an instant—one minute your child is playing happily, and the next they have what seems like a fountain of blood coming out of their nose. It’s enough to make even the most relaxed parent feel a sense of alarm. Fortunately, most nosebleeds can be easily managed. Stanford Children’s Health pediatrician Amina Ahmed, MD, has some helpful tips for dealing with your child’s bloody nose.

Most people will experience a nosebleed at some point. According to Dr. Ahmed, they are quite common, affecting about 60 percent of adults and children. Even though the sight of blood can be frightening to kids and their parents, Dr. Ahmed assures us that it’s not really as much blood as it seems.

In fact, not only are most nosebleeds treatable at home, but many can be prevented. The number one cause of nosebleeds is nose picking. Inside the nostril is a soft, mucus-coated lining full of blood vessels that can be easily scratched by a probing finger. So, if you can help keep your kids from picking their nose in the first place, they will be less likely to get a nosebleed (although stopping children from digging in their nose is easier said than done!).

Dry air is another culprit, especially during winter when the heat is running. The heated air can dry out the delicate nasal passages and makes them especially vulnerable to sharp little fingernails. One way to help prevent nosebleeds is to keep the area moisturized. Dr. Ahmed recommends running a cool mist humidifier at night, particularly in winter. The moist air can help keep the delicate membranes inside the nostrils hydrated. Additionally, she suggests a topical option: “You can also apply [petroleum jelly] just inside the tip of the nose several times during the day.”

While these techniques may reduce the number of nosebleeds, one may still catch you by surprise. If you’re faced with a child suffering from a bloody nose, Dr. Ahmed offers a simple approach to treatment:

  • Make sure the child is sitting up straight.
  • Gently but firmly pinch the soft, spongy area just past the bridge of the nose. Older kids may be able to do this themselves, but younger kids may need help.
  • Keep applying pressure for five to 10 minutes.

She cautioned against some common treatments that could actually do more harm than good:

  • Don’t lean your or your child’s head back during a nosebleed, as it can cause problems such as vomiting.
  • Avoid packing tissue into the nostril because it can attach to the newly formed scab and cause more bleeding.

According to Dr. Ahmed, the pressure from pinching the nostril area is the best method, and it is very important to maintain that pressure for at least 5 minutes to stop the bleeding. “Five to 10 minutes can feel like an eternity in the moment, but you need to keep the pressure on for a minimum of five minutes,” she said.

Your demeanor when you respond to a nosebleed is almost as important as what you do. Bloody noses are naturally going to create a sense of panic for adults and kids alike, so keeping cool can make things a little less frightening for everyone involved. “I know it’s very scary for parents to see fresh blood coming out of the nose,” Dr. Ahmed relates. “But children often feed off of the way they see their parents react, so it’s important to stay calm.”

Another tactic Dr. Ahmed recommends is having a conversation with your children about nosebleeds ahead of time. Knowing that a nosebleed can happen to them or their friends can help them feel more prepared.

The good thing about nosebleeds is that they usually go away quickly and rarely have lasting consequences. According to Dr. Ahmed, only 1 percent of nosebleeds require a hospital visit. However, sometimes a bloody nose is a sign of something more serious. “If your child is experiencing nosebleeds two to three times per week for a month, and you’ve already tried all the common interventions, this warrants a call to the doctor,” she advises.

To learn more about nosebleeds in children, check out this article, “Nosebleed (Epistaxis) in Children.”

Or to learn more about stocking a first aid kit for children, get tips here: “First-Aid Kit.”

And find out what to avoid when dealing with minor scrapes at home in “Common First Aid Mistakes.”

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