Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nosebleeds in Children - Should I Worry?

There's nothing quite like walking into your child's room first thing in the morning to be met with a scene that rivals something out of an episode of Dexter. Blood. Everywhere.
image from

Wakes you up way quicker than your morning coffee could.

What had happened? Little Boo had a nosebleed. A pretty intense one. And he had a bout of sneezing at the same time. Believe me, this is not a great combination. Sheets, pillows, stuffies, the wall, the child, all covered. It was a big laundry day.

But, in spite of how terrifying it looked, and in spite of the fact that these nosebleeds continued off and on over the next three days, I knew it wasn't a serious problem. Nosebleeds generally are nothing more than an uncomfortable annoyance.

What causes them?

Most nosebleeds are caused either by dry air in the home or by those nasty little fingers rooting around in there. Nosebleeds could also occur as a result of an injury, like falling flat on your face. The bleeding is generally from the septum, that thin wall between the two nostrils, where there are lots of blood vessels.

And what can you do?

First off, stay calm. Most nosebleeds aren't serious. When I was little we were told to tilt our heads back, but this will allow the blood to run down the back of the child's throat. Not a good idea. Have your child lean their head forward and then apply pressure on the soft part of the nose, just below where you feel the hard cartilage. Just like any wound, you are applying pressure to stop the bleeding. Experts suggest applying this pressure for 10-15 minutes to ensure the bleeding is really stopped, so you may want to be sitting down with your child. I have found that a cool cloth on the back of the neck provides some comfort, but it doesn't actually affect the bleeding.

Once the nosebleed has stopped, make sure your child knows not to blow their nose or pick it or do any hard sniffing. Any of these could open up the bleeding again.

When to see a doctor?

According to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, you should only need to see a doctor if the bleeding lasts more than 20 minutes, or if it's the result of an injury. If your child has frequent nosebleeds a check with your family physician  is probably in order.


Stop picking your nose! Also, keeping the air in your child's bedroom moist with a humidifier, or hydrating the nose with a saline rinse should help a frequent sufferer.

Sick Kids has put together this short video on how to treat a nosebleed. It's available on YouTube, and I'll embed it here for convenience:

When my brother was little he had nosebleeds fairly regularly, usually at night. He got so used to them that he would look after them himself, even at 8 or 9 years old. My mother would only realise another had occurred when she found the bloody cloth in the sink the next morning. So, yes, nosebleeds generally aren't serious, although they can look terrifying!

Obviously, I am not a doctor. For more information on nosebleeds in children, please see

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