When your child suddenly has blood pouring from their nose, it can be startling. Apart from the urgency to contain the blood, you may be wondering how in the world the nosebleed started.

Fortunately, while nosebleeds in children can seem dramatic, they’re not usually serious. Here are the most common causes of nosebleeds in kids, the best ways to treat them, and what you can do to help prevent them from happening again.

Posterior vs. anterior nosebleeds

A nosebleed can be anterior or posterior. An anterior nosebleed is the most common, with blood coming from the front of the nose. It’s caused by the rupturing of tiny blood vessels inside the nose, known as capillaries.

A posterior nosebleed comes from deeper inside the nose. This kind of nosebleed is unusual in children, unless it’s related to a face or nose injury.

What causes nosebleeds in children?

There are a few common culprits behind a child’s bloody nose.

  • Dry air: Whether it’s heated indoor air or a dry climate, the most common cause of nosebleeds in children is dry air that both irritates and dehydrates nasal membranes.
  • Scratching or picking: This is the second most common cause of nosebleeds. Irritating the nose by scratching or picking can expose blood vessels that are prone to bleeding.
  • Trauma: When a child gets an injury to the nose, it can start a nosebleed. Most aren’t a problem, but you should seek medical care if you’re unable to stop the bleeding after 10 minutes or you’re worried about the injury as a whole.
  • Cold, allergies, or sinus infection: Any illness that includes symptoms of nasal congestion and irritation can cause nosebleeds.
  • Bacterial infection: Bacterial infections can cause sore, red, and crusted areas on the skin just inside the nose and in the front of the nostrils. These infections can lead to bleeding.

In rare cases, frequent nosebleeds are caused by problems relating to blood clotting or abnormal blood vessels. If your child is experiencing nosebleeds that aren’t related to the causes listed above, raise your concerns with your doctor.

How to treat your child’s nosebleeds

You can help slow down your child’s nosebleed by seating them in a chair. Follow these steps to stop a nosebleed:

  1. Keep them upright and gently tilt their head forward slightly. Leaning their head back could cause blood to run down their throat. It will taste bad, and it can make your child cough, gag, or even vomit.
  2. Pinch the soft part of the nose below the nasal bridge. Have your child breathe through their mouth while you (or your child, if they are old enough) do this.
  3. Try to maintain pressure for about 10 minutes. Stopping too early may make your child’s nose begin bleeding again. You can also apply ice to the bridge of the nose, which may reduce blood flow.

Are recurring nosebleeds a problem?

While some children will only have one or two nosebleeds over a span of years, others seem to get them much more frequently. This can happen when the lining of the noise becomes overly irritated, exposing blood vessels that bleed at even the smallest instigation.

How to treat frequent nosebleeds

If your child has frequent nosebleeds, make a point to moisturize the lining of the nose. You can try:

  • using a nasal saline mist sprayed into the nostrils a few times a day
  • rubbing an emollient like Vaseline or lanolin just inside the nostrils on a cotton bud or finger
  • using a vaporizer in your child’s bedroom to add moisture to the air
  • keeping your child’s nails trimmed to reduce scratches and irritations from nose picking

When should I call my doctor?

Call your doctor if:

  • your child’s nosebleed is the result of something they inserted into their nose
  • they recently started taking new medicine
  • they’re bleeding from another place, like their gums
  • they have severe bruising all over their body

You should also contact your doctor immediately if your child’s nosebleed is still bleeding heavily after two attempts at 10 minutes of continuous pressure. You’ll likely need to seek medical care if it’s the result of a blow to the head (and not to the nose), or if your child is complaining of headache, or feeling weak or dizzy.

Next steps

It may seem like a lot of blood, but nosebleeds in children are rarely serious. You probably won’t need to head to the hospital. Remain calm and follow the steps listed above to slow and stop the bleeding.

Try to keep your child resting or playing quietly after a nosebleed. Encourage them to avoid blowing their nose or rubbing it too hard. Keep in mind that most nosebleeds are harmless. Understanding how to slow and stop one is a useful skill for any parent.