Though common and sometimes frightening, nosebleeds are rarely anything more than a nuisance. They are usually the result of minor irritations in the nasal passages, and are common in children younger than 10.
What Causes Nosebleeds?
The nose is prone to bleeding due to a large number of blood vessels close to the surface, especially on the nasal septum. When the inside of the nose dries out and becomes irritated, the blood vessels break, causing a nosebleed. These are more common in the winter months, when the air is cold and dry. Other factors that may contribute to nosebleeds include colds and allergies, sinus infections, nose picking, blowing the nose too hard, frequent sneezing, overuse of nasal sprays, foreign objects in the nose, and trauma to the nose. Aspirin or anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can exacerbate nosebleeds.
If nosebleeds are chronic or occur frequently, they may be the result of high blood pressure or other vascular diseases or, in rare cases, a serious medical condition like a tumor. A hereditary disorder known as hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia is characterized by malformed blood vessels that break easily.
Nosebleeds originating in the front of the nose are characterized as anterior nosebleeds. These are easy to control and rarely pose a problem. Posterior nosebleeds are rare, but much more serious. They originate from an artery in the back of the nose, and require immediate treatment. These are much rarer in children.
How Are Nosebleeds Treated?
If your child is experiencing a nosebleed, first and foremost, stay calm! Though their nosebleed may look serious, chances are there is much less blood than appearances would lead you to believe. Have your child sit down and lean forward slightly while pinching their nostrils together using a thumb and index finger. Have them hold this position for at least five minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped.
Do not let them blow their nose afterward. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after 20 minutes or is the result of an injury to the face, seek medical attention. The bleeding can be controlled by cauterizing the blood vessels or inserting packing into the nasal cavities.
If your child is prone to frequent nosebleeds, there are steps you can take to prevent them. Keep the nasal lining moist with a light coating of Aquaphor ointment several times a day, or use a saline nasal spray. Run a humidifier, especially if you live in a dry climate. Quit smoking; secondhand smoke causes dryness and irritation.
You may want to consult an otolaryngologist if recurring nosebleeds are a problem. Call Comprehensive ENT at (804) 228-4480 for more information or to schedule an appointment.