Nosebleeds typically resolve on their own. But if they are severe or long lasting, they may be a sign of another health condition, such as internal bleeding, and require immediate medical care.
A nosebleed can be scary, especially when it happens to your child. But while nosebleeds can appear out of nowhere, most aren’t a serious cause for concern and usually resolve with home care.
The surface lining of your nose contains several blood vessels, and it only takes the slightest injury or irritation to trigger bleeding.
Nosebleeds are common in children and adults, but some nosebleeds are more severe, in which case you’ll need to contact a doctor.
Here’s a look at common causes of nosebleeds, different ways to manage nosebleeds at home, as well as advice on when to talk with a doctor.
Most adults and children will have at least one nosebleed in their lives. In most cases, the bleeding will stop after a few minutes of self-care. Other times, though, nosebleeds have symptoms that may warrant a call or trip to a doctor.
When to contact a doctor for children
Understandably, a nosebleed in your child can invoke panic. Keep in mind, though, that nosebleeds are common in children. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ignore every nosebleed.
Some nosebleeds are minor and you’ll notice blood dripping or running from your child’s nose. They might bleed from one nostril or both nostrils. Immediate home care helps stop the bleeding.
You should, however, talk with a doctor under the following circumstances:
- The nosebleed doesn’t stop after 20 minutes of direct pressure, especially if your child has an injury to their head or face. Serious injuries can affect the nose or skull.
- There’s an object stuck in your child’s nose.
- Your child has other symptoms such as dizziness, headache, tiredness, vomiting, or trouble breathing. This can indicate too much blood loss, or blood dripping down their throat.
When to contact a doctor for adults
Even if you’re used to having nosebleeds as an adult, you shouldn’t ignore certain symptoms.
- Similar to a child, call your doctor if a nosebleed doesn’t stop after 20 minutes of direct pressure, or if you lose a lot of blood (more than a cup).
- You should also talk with your doctor if you experience trouble breathing, gagging, or vomiting due to blood dripping down your throat.
- A serious injury to your head or that face causes a nosebleed also needs medical attention.
- If you’re bleeding from other parts of your body — ears or rectum, for example, this could indicate internal bleeding, blood clotting problems, or blood vessel disorders.
Both adults and children should also be examined by a doctor for repeated, frequent nosebleeds, even minor ones. This can indicate an ongoing problem within the nose, perhaps nasal growths or nasal polyps.
If you’ve lost a lot of blood, don’t drive yourself to the emergency room. Instead, have a friend or relative drive you or call 911.
Don’t panic if you or your child has a nosebleed. Several things can trigger minor bleeds. For example:
- picking the nose
- minor injury to the nose
- common cold, sinusitis, and allergies
- dry air
- blowing your nose too hard
- overuse of nasal decongestant sprays
- high altitudes
- chemical irritants
- blood-thinning medications
- deviated septum
Here’s a look at several self-care tips to treat the occasional nosebleed in adults and children.
- Remain upright. Sitting in an upright position helps blood drain from your nose, and prevents it from dripping down your throat. Blood dripping down your throat can cause vomiting and nausea.
- Use cold therapy. Applying a cold compress to the bridge of your nose helps constrict your blood vessels in your nose, which can stop the bleeding.
- Blow your nose gently once. This helps to remove any blood clots in your nostrils.
- Pinch your nose for 5 minutes. Gently squeeze the soft portion of your nose for at least 5 minutes without letting go. The pressure on your nasal septum can stop the blood flow. Repeat as necessary for up to 15 minutes.
- Use a damp washcloth. Do not place gauze or tissue inside your nostril, or your child’s nostril. Instead, hold a damp washcloth over the nose to help absorb the blood.
For more severe nosebleeds, or frequent nosebleeds, your doctor might recommend other treatments. This includes:
- surgically correcting a deviated septum
- adjusting your blood-thinning medication
- using a cauterization technique to close a bleeding blood vessel
If you or your child has nosebleeds — perhaps due to sinusitis, allergies, or other known conditions — here are a few tips to decrease their frequency.
- Use saline nose drops as directed to keep your nasal passage moist.
- Use a humidifier when allergies or the common cold cause a nosebleed.
- Don’t blow your nose too hard.
- Try to quit smoking (smoking can dry and irritate your nasal passage).
- Trim your child’s fingernails and discourage nose picking.
- Wear protective face gear when playing certain sports.
- Open your mouth when sneezing to prevent injuring your blood vessels within your nose.
A nosebleed can look much worse than it actually is, but some bleeds are cause for concern.
Whether it happens to you or your child, take immediate steps to self-treat at home. Most nosebleeds will stop after a few minutes. But if the bleeding continues or you experience other symptoms, call or see a doctor.