Going With the Flow of Nosebleeds

Most nosebleeds look worse than they are. In other words, nosebleeds are messy, a little uncomfortable, and sometimes even scary, but they are usually no big deal.

Kids can get nosebleeds once in a while or more often. The nosebleeds that are most common in kids usually occur near the front of the nose, on the wall separating the two sides of the nose (the septum), and usually start from just one nostril.

Sometimes nosebleeds start further back in the nose, but this is rare and occurs mostly in older people or those who have high blood pressure or injuries to their nose or face.

What Causes Nosebleeds?

Most nosebleeds occur when little blood vessels that line the inside of your nose break and bleed. These blood vessels are very fragile and lie very close to the surface, which makes them easy targets for injury.

Common reasons are:

  • nose picking or sticking something up the nose
  • a cold or allergy, especially with sneezing, coughing, and nose blowing
  • dry, heated, indoor air (often occurring during winter), which causes the inside of the nose to become cracked, crusted, and itchy

Less often, injuries to the outside of the nose, face, or head can cause nosebleeds. If this happens, you need to see a doctor right away. You can help prevent these types of nosebleeds by wearing protective gear, such as helmets for hockey, football, and baseball and any other sport or activity that requires them.

Sometimes nosebleeds may be due to a problem with the blood’s clotting system, but this is rare.

If You Get Nosebleeds

You know that you should see a doctor if your nosebleed was caused by an injury, such as a punch. But what if it just starts bleeding on its own?

Follow these steps:

  • Don't lie down. Sit up or stand.
  • Use tissues or a damp washcloth to catch the blood.
  • Tip your head forward (don't lean your head back; this can make blood run down your throat).
  • Pinch the soft part of your nose together (just below the bony part of your nose) and breathe through your mouth. Do this for 10 minutes. Make sure you hold the pressure for 10 minutes without stopping. It seems like a long time when you actually do it, so having someone check the time may help.
  • Do not pick, rub, or blow your nose — this can cause your nose to bleed more.
  • If your nosebleed doesn't stop after 10 minutes of pressure, pinch it for another 10 minutes. If it still hasn't stopped, your mom, dad, or another adult should speak with a doctor.

Here are some other cases when you need to see the doctor or visit the emergency department:

  • You feel dizzy, weak, or faint (like you might pass out).
  • Your nose is bleeding fast or you seem to be losing a lot of blood.
  • You just started taking a new medicine.
  • You have other symptoms, such as unusual bruising on your body.

Nixing Nosebleeds

If you'd like to get fewer nosebleeds, what can you do? Well, don't pick your nose or stick anything up your nose. Also, avoid blowing your nose too forcefully and if you have allergies that bother your nose, see a doctor about them. If you get your allergies under control, your nose probably won't be as stuffy and irritated.

When the inside of your nose feels dry and itchy, it can be tempting to pick it, so talk to your mom or dad about using one or two of these strategies to keep it moist:

  • Use a saline (saltwater) nasal spray or saline nose drops two or three times a day.
  • Ask an adult to place a small amount of antibiotic ointment on the end of a cotton swab; insert the swab into your nostril and gently apply it to the center wall of your nose. Only the cotton tip should be inserted. Using a fingertip to apply the ointment works well, too.
  • Ask to use a humidifier in your bedroom. Humidifiers send a fine mist of water into the air and this keeps the air from being too dry. When the air is damp your nose is less likely to feel dry inside. In fact, one doctor said a humidifier is "like a vacation for your nose"!

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: January 2011

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.