An occasional nosebleed is almost a childhood rite of passage, but frequent nosebleeds can be more uncomfortable and worrisome. If your child suffers from regular nosebleeds, find out what might be causing the issue and how you can address it.
Causes of Frequent Nosebleeds
Everyone gets nosebleeds says Dr. Dorota Szczepaniak, a pediatrician at Riley Children's Health in Indiana. If your child is having them frequently, however, you should consult their doctor to find out what's causing the problem and how you can help treat it.
What Constitutes Frequent?
"More often than one time a week signifies that something may be wrong," shares Dr. Szczepaniak. Since preschoolers tend to get more nosebleeds than older kids or adults, nosebleeds occurring two to three times per week would be a cause for concern for this age group.
Nosebleeds are commonly caused by trauma of some kind, but there are other reasons they occur. All the most frequent reasons are due to trauma to the small blood vessels in the nose, making them leak and bleed.
- Nose picking
- Blowing nose too hard
- Colds and seasonal allergies causing increases in mucus ("snot") and swelling
- Dry air causing dryness in the nose
- Foreign objects in the nose
Rare causes of nosebleeds tend to be the ones parents are most concerned about. These causes are not likely and generally result from abnormal clotting, which makes bleeding easier.
- Aspirin or other medications
- Chronic illness
- Anatomical problems
Side Effects of Regular Nosebleeds
Frequent nosebleeds can cause a disruption of activities for the child and parents as they treat the bleeding, clean it up, and worry. Aside from containing and cleaning up blood, the most worrisome side effect is the rare occasion when a child becomes anemic.
What Parents Can Do to Help
As a parent, your main job is to remain calm when your child is dealing with a health issue. If your child is old enough to do it on their own, you can guide them through proper procedures and provide support.
Contain and Stop the Bleeding
Most nosebleeds stop on their own within three to five minutes, but you'll want to prevent blood from dripping everywhere. Sit your child down with their head tilted slightly forward. Using tissues or a clean cloth, ask them to blow their nose gently. Then, you need to pinch the soft, lower part of their nose between your thumb and finger firmly for 10 minutes. Don't stick anything inside the child's nose and don't release your hold during this time.
Discourage Behaviors That Irritate the Nose
If behaviors like nose-picking are the culprit, you can regularly say something like, "We pick our noses in private."
Keep Their Nose Moisturized
Dr Szczepaniak's self-proclaimed "Parenting Rule Number Three" is that parents should regularly use a saline mist to moisturize the child's nose. The irritated skin could cause more pain and discomfort outside the actual nosebleeds.
When to See a Doctor
Preschoolers with nosebleeds lasting over three to five minutes or older kids with nosebleeds lasting more than 10 minutes should see a doctor. You should also "trust your parental instinct," says Dr. Szczepaniak, "If you're worried, have the child seen by the pediatrician." Kids with other bleeding problems, who are vomiting blood, look pale, or have a fever or rash should seek medical attention too.
What the Doctor Can Do
Health conditions that can increase chance of nosebleeds should always be determined in a discussion with the child's pediatrician.
Check for Serious Medical Conditions
Your child's doctor will make sure that the nosebleeds are not a result of a serious condition. Often, this will require a blood test to rule out blood clotting problems. A thorough physical examination of the child's medical history will follow to help determine what is going on.
Offer Treatment Options
If the nosebleeds are not due to a more serious condition, there are a few things your doctor might recommend to help prevent and treat the nosebleeds.
- Use saline (saltwater) spray, drops, or gel every day in the nose to moisturize.
- Put a small amount of petroleum jelly or a similar ointment just inside the nose near the inner bony part (septum) to prevent dryness at night.
- Use a humidifier on a low setting to help combat dry air.
- As a last resort, your child's doctor can use silver nitrate or heat to cauterize the blood vessel so it scars and stops bleeding.
Get Nosebleeds Under Control
While frequent nosebleeds in kids might be annoying and look dramatic, they are often caused by common circumstances and can be treated. Keep track of how often they happen, then consult your child's doctor for advice on how to deal with the issue.