First aid: Nosebleeds in children

What are they?

Nosebleeds are a common occurrence in childhood. They may occur from trauma to the nose, dry nasal passages on non-humid days, from inflammation due to allergies, and, of course, from nose picking. They may also occur for no particular reason that can be identified. These episodes of nosebleeding can be quite distressful for parents because just a few drops of blood can have a deceptive appearance of being a large amount, so a nosebleed that lasts for five minutes may appear like the child is hemorrhaging.

What are the symptoms?

Bright red blood coming from the nose

What can/should be done at home

The most common reason for a nosebleed to not stop bleeding is improper technique in getting it to stop. When a nosebleed occurs:

  • Tilt the head slightly back and preferably keep the child upright, either standing or in a chair. Keeping the head higher than the heart will decrease the amount of blood pooling that can occur in tissues that have a lot of blood vessels, such as the nose.
  • You want to stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the site of bleeding. Pinch about halfway up the nose, where the bone and cartilage meet. If pressure is applied only at the opening of the nose, you catch a lot of blood, but do not apply pressure in the correct spot.
  • Keep pressure on the nose for at least 10 minutes, and no peeking. This is where most adults fail because 10 minutes can be a long time to hold pressure to the nose. It is difficult to resist the urge to "peek" just to see if the bleeding has stopped. Each time this "peeking" is done, the clot that was forming inside the nose gets ripped away, and bleeding may start all over giving the appearance of abnormal bleeding.
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