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When Your Child Has Nosebleeds

Side view of child leaning head back and pinching bridge of nose. Red X indicates not to do this. Side view of child leaning head forward and pinching bridge of nose.
Leaning back is the wrong way to stop a nosebleed. Instead, have your child lean forward and apply pressure to the nostrils.
Nosebleeds are common in children. They are usually not a sign of a serious problem. You can treat most nosebleeds at home. And you can take steps to help your child prevent them. 

What causes nosebleeds?

The skin inside your child’s nose is very delicate. It is filled with many tiny blood vessels. That’s why even a small injury can bleed a lot. The most common causes of nosebleeds in children are:

  • Nose picking

  • Dryness inside the nose

  • Allergies or colds

  • Certain medicines

  • Injury to the nose

  • Abnormal tissue growths such as polyps

How are nosebleeds treated?

Nosebleeds are easy to treat at home. With proper treatment, most nosebleeds will stop in less than 5 minutes. Keep this list of Do’s and Don’ts in mind:

DO

  • Have your child tilt his or her head slightly forward (NOT backward). This keeps blood from pooling at the back of the throat, where it may be swallowed.

  • Use a finger or small wad of tissue to firmly press against the nostrils (or the nostril that is bleeding). Press close to the opening of the nostril, not up by the bridge of the nose. Press firmly enough to close off the nostril.

  • Let your child sit down if he or she wants, but don’t let him or her lie down during a nosebleed.

  • Your child may wish to take it easy for the rest of the day after a nosebleed.

DON’T

  • Don’t have your child place his or her head between the knees. This is not needed, and may even make the nosebleed worse.

  • Don’t give your child a pain reliever. If your child needs one, call your healthcare provider.

  • Don’t put ice on the nose.

  • Don’t let your child lie down during the nosebleed.

If nosebleeds happen often

Most nosebleeds are not a medical emergency. But if your child is having nosebleeds often, take him or her to see a healthcare provider. Your child may need a saline (special saltwater) nasal spray to moisten the inside of the nose. In some cases, the healthcare provider may need to do a quick procedure to keep the vessels from bleeding. 

How are nosebleeds prevented?

To help prevent nosebleeds in your child:

  • Apply petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment to the inside of your child’s nose before bedtime.

  • Try to keep your child from picking his or her nose. 

  • Turn down the house thermostat so air is not as dry and hot.

  • If needed, add moisture to the air in your child's room using a humidifier. Be sure to use fresh water daily, and clean the filter often to prevent bacterial growth in the humidifier.  

  • Treat your child’s allergies, if needed.

When to call your child's healthcare provider

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Nose that is still bleeding after 15 minutes of treatment listed above

  • Very heavy bleeding, with large clots visible 

  • Daily nosebleeds that continue for 3 days

  • Bruising on the abdomen, backs of thighs, or buttocks. These are fleshy places that don’t normally bruise.

  • Small, flat purple spots (petechiae) anywhere on your child’s body

  • Pale skin or weakness anywhere in the body

  • Bleeding from a second area, such as the gums

  • Blood in the stool

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.