Did you know that about 60% of individuals will experience a nosebleed at some point in their life? However, frequent nosebleeds are more common in children between 2 to 10 years old and the elderly aged between 50 and 80.
And although nosebleeds can be messy and alarming at times, only approximately 10% of nosebleeds are severe and a serious problem to demand medical attention. Even better, most nosebleeds can be stopped using pressure and patience.
This article will detail everything about nosebleeds in children. In it, you’ll learn what nosebleeds are, what causes them, types of nosebleeds, how to stop them, prevention tips, and more.
Let’s get started!
What is a nosebleed in children?
As the name suggests, a nosebleed involves bleeding from tissues inside the nose, and it’s caused by broken blood vessels. Also known as epistaxis, a bloody nose is mostly painless and is characterized by blood flowing from the nose.
In most cases, nosebleeds in children occur in the front part of the nose near the nostrils. This part has a lot of blood vessels that can be damaged easily when the child is hit or harms themself during nose picking.
Although a nosebleed may seem scary and messy, it’s usually not a serious health problem. They’re common in children and disappear as they approach their teen years.
Nosebleeds occur more often in dry climates or during winter when homes and buildings are heated with HVAC systems. Dry heat can cause drying, crusting, and cracking inside the nose, hence the nosebleeds.
What are the types of nosebleeds?
Nosebleeds are categorized based on their origin. They are either anterior (coming from the front of the nose) or posterior (coming from the back of the nose).
The anterior nosebleed is the most common, originating from the front of the nose. It happens when the small blood vessels, including capillaries, break and bleed.
On the other hand, the posterior nosebleed originates from the deepest part of the nose. Rarer in children posterior nosebleed is characterized by blood flowing down the back of the throat even when the individual is standing or sitting.
Posterior nosebleeds are common among the elderly with high blood pressure or individuals with face or nose injuries.
What causes nosebleeds in children?
Knowing what caused your child’s nosebleeds is key to helping prevent a re-occurrence in the future.
Here are several causes of a nosebleed in children:
a. Dry Air
Heated indoor air or dry climate such as that during the winter months, may irritate and dry out the nasal membranes, causing anterior nosebleeds in children. Dry air causes itchy crusts that bleed when picked or scratched due to the dryness of the nasal lining. Common colds can also irritate the nose, causing nosebleeds when blown.
b. Injuries or blows to the nose
Your child may have a nosebleed when they injure their nose or face. Hitting the nose may break the blood vessels in the nose causing nose bleeding. Same goes for a broken nose.
And although these nosebleeds aren’t serious, you should seek medical care if the bleeding doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of trying to stop it.
An allergy and its associated medication may also cause nosebleeds in children. The allergy and the medications may make the nose dry, itchy, stuffy, and runny, leading to nosebleeds.
How do I stop a nosebleed in a child?
Although sometimes scary, inconvenient, and filthy, most nosebleeds will stop independently and can be managed at home. Here are six things that the parent or caregiver should do to stop a nosebleed in a child:
a. Sit the child upright
The first thing you need to do is sit the bleeding child upright. You may have them sitting down or standing up with their head bent forward.
This prevents the blood from flowing back to their throat, leading to vomiting or choking. Help the child to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose.
b. Apply pressure:
Applying firm pressure on the soft front part of the child’s nose will help stop the nosebleed. The blood vessels are located near the nostrils, and applying pressure on the soft part of the nose prevents them from bleeding.
c. Use a nasal spray
If you have an over-the-counter nasal decongestant such as phenylephrine or oxymetazoline, you may use it to stop the bleeding. Spray it into the nose of the child on the side that’s bleeding.
d. Use ice
You may apply a cold compress or ice pack o the bridge of the child’s nose to stop the bleeding. The cold constricts the blood vessels, bringing the blood flow to a stop.
e. Keep calm
The more the child panics, the longer it’ll take for the bleeding to stop. So, as the parent or guardian, you need to remain calm, and the little one will more likely follow suit.
f. Repeat the steps for 10-15 minutes
If the nosebleed doesn’t stop after applying pressure for 10 minutes, try the same steps again. That is, reapply pressure on the nose, use a nasal spray, and use ice to stop the bleeding.
If the bleeding doesn’t stop after about 30 minutes, seek emergency medical treatment.
Three don’ts when a child is nose bleeding.
When you’re attending to a nose bleeding child, there are some things that you shouldn’t do, even though they may feel like the right things to do. The chances are that you’ve come across this misguiding information regarding what to do when your child has nosebleeds.
Here are three things to avoid:
a. Don’t tip the child’s head back:
You may have used or heard this advice growing up, but physicians say it’s not advised. Tipping the child’s head back drains the blood in their throat, which can cause choking.
Also, blood in the child’s stomach may cause discomfort and vomiting.
b. Don’t stuff the child’s nose:
Some individuals will stick tissues, tampons, napkins, or cotton pads up the nose to stop bleeding. I know it might feel like the right thing to do, but doctors advise against it.
This worsens bleeding as it irritates the fragile blood vessels and the lining of the nose further, causing more bleeding when the stuffing is removed. You may use a tissue or a damp cloth to trap blood as it comes out of the child’s nose.
c. Don’t keep checking on it:
After applying pressure to the nosebleed, keep the pressure on for about 10-15 minutes. Refrain from checking every other minute to see if the nosebleed has stopped.
Taking the pressure off frequently will take longer for the nosebleed to stop. So, stay calm and patient, and the bleeding will stop.
When should I call the pediatrician?
As mentioned above, nose bleeding happens when the tiny blood vessels in the nose get dried out, experience regular blowing or picking, or if the child takes a hit to the nose. In most cases, the nosebleed is not a cause for concern and will stop on itself after following the right measures to stop it.
However, if the nose continues to bleed, seek medical attention for the child. Visit a pediatrician or emergency department if the child:
- Bruises easily and bleeds more from minor injuries
- Has frequently occurring nosebleeds
- Continues to nose bleed after two trials to curb the bleeding
- Has been bleeding for more than 15 minutes
- Is pale, dizzy, and doesn’t seem okay
- Has a foreign object in their nose
- Has a nosebleed after taking new medications
- Had a fall or head injury that caused the nosebleed
The pediatrician will review the child’s injury or current medication to determine the cause of the nosebleeds. They’ll then stop the bleeding and provide you with information to prevent its reoccurrence.
How do I prevent nosebleeds?
Although you can’t always prevent nosebleeds from happening to a child, certain things can help reduce the chances of getting them. Here are five things that will lower the chances of a child’s nose bleeding:
a. Use a humidifier:
A Cool mist Humidifier can help maintain humid air in the house, preventing the mucus membrane from drying out. Thus, using it in homes prevents the child from nose bleeding.
b. Trim the child’s fingernails:
Sharp and long fingernails can cause a child’s nosebleed when they pick their nose. Cut and trim the child’s fingernails to prevent a nosebleed.
c. Keep the inside of the nose moist:
Dry air can lead to nosebleeds in children. Using a cotton swab, smear a thin layer and small amount of petroleum jelly in the child’s nostrils every few hours, including before they go to sleep.
d. Ensure the child has protective equipment:
Make sure that child has protective equipment when engaging in an activity that might cause nosebleeds. For instance, the child should have headgear when riding bikes or playing soccer.
e. Don’t give the child allergy and cold medications too often:
Allergy medications can dry out the child’s nose, causing nosebleeds. Discuss the medication with the pediatrician before administering it to a child who has a history of nosebleeds.
The bottom line
Nosebleeds can be a nuisance but shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. If you follow the preventive tips and the right treatment measures, the chances are that it’s going to end by itself fairly quickly.