Nosebleeds (epistaxis) occur when a blood vessel bursts in the lining of the nose. Blood vessels are located close to the surface in the nose and this makes them fragile and easy to burst. Nosebleeds are a common complaint and more than half of all children will experience at least one.
What causes it?
Nosebleeds can be caused by:
- minor trauma such as nose picking, coughing, sneezing or rubbing
- straining when constipated
- facial trauma
- foreign objects in the nasal passage
- sinus and nasal infections
- deviated septum (where the cartilage and bone in the centre of the nose is crooked and makes breathing difficult)
- dry, cold air
- vascular problems (arteries and veins) or high blood pressure
- infections or allergies
- certain medications or medical treatment.
What is the treatment?
Most nosebleeds will involve minimal bleeding and last for less than 10 minutes. However, your child may be distressed by the sight and taste of the blood. It’s important to keep them calm as crying will make the bleeding worse.
- Sit your child down and lean them slightly forward.
- Use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze the soft part of their nose shut for 10 minutes (repeat for another 10 minutes if it hasn’t stopped bleeding).
- Apply a cool cloth or an icepack to the bridge of their nose.
- Give them a drink or ice-block to help take away the taste of the blood in their mouth.
- Get them to spit out any blood that’s dripped into their mouth. Swallowing blood may make them vomit and this can increase/continue the bleeding.
Seek medical attention if the bleeding doesn’t stop or you are still concerned. Doctors may apply a cream, cauterise (freeze or burn) the blood vessel or pack your child’s nose with gauze to stop the bleeding.
Care at home
For 24 hours after the nosebleed:
- Keep your child calm with quiet activities.
- Don’t give your child a hot bath/shower or hot foods/drinks.
- Stop your child from picking or blowing their nose.
Key points to remember
- Nosebleeds are very common in children and will often not require medical attention.
- Most are caused by harmless activities during playtime.
Paediatric Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Department
Queensland Children’s Hospital
Level 3, 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.