Nosebleeds are very common, and unless you’ve had a blow to the nose, they usually starts and stops spontaneously. The septum (nose partition) is the most common site of bleeding from the nose. The forward part of the nose has fragile membranes that crack easily, and it doesn't take much to damage blood vessels that lie just beneath their surface.
The dry air of wintertime can be a major factor, as can the low humidity of an airplane cabin. Both conditions can cause nasal membranes to dry out and crack. Inflammation from a cold, an allergy, or sinusitis can also weaken the nasal tissue.
Picking your nose or blowing your nose hard can set off a nosebleed; so can hard rubbing of your nose and, of course, a bump or blow.
Immediate Care for Nosebleeds
Most nosebleeds will stop spontaneously or with the application of simple remedies. The following measures usually stop a nosebleed quickly.
- Sit your child up. This allows gravity to lower pressure in the veins. To keep blood from running back into the throat, tilt your head forward a little.
- Pinch the fleshy part of the nose. This is the part between the bridge and the nostril. Pinch with your thumb and index finger for 5 to 10 minutes, breathing through your mouth. Applying ice probably won’t help, since it’s really pressure, not temperature, that stops the bleeding.
- Be careful how your child blows his or her nose once the bleeding stops. Don’t blow too hard or too often. Sneeze through an open mouth, and avoid strenuous sports for a few days. Apply a little petroleum jelly inside the nostrils several times a day for a few weeks to keep the membranes moist.
Nosebleed Prevention Tips
- Humidify at home. If your child has a history of nosebleeds, it may help to use a home humidifier to keep the air from becoming too dry.
- Use petroleum jelly. In very dry air, keep membranes moist by applying a little petroleum jelly with your fingertip or a small cotton swab just inside the nostrils.
- Avoid repeated rubbing or picking.
- Blow gently. Teach your child to blow gently—if he has an upper respiratory infection and have nasal discharge, forcefully blowing the nose may send bacteria from the nose into the ears and so contribute to an ear infection.
When to Seek Medical Help for a Nosebleed
If the bleeding lasts longer than 20 minutes after applying home treatment, or if blood is continuing to drain down the throat from the back of the nose, contact your doctor or seek help from an emergency room. A nurse or doctor will try to stop the bleeding by compressing the nostrils (even if you have tried this yourself). If this fails, he or she may then try to locate the bleeding point and cauterize it (apply a heated instrument to tissue to halt bleeding).
Another option is to pack the site with gauze in order to apply pressure to ruptured blood vessels.
Also contact your doctor if nosebleeds recur frequently.
For More Information about Nosebleeds
- American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery