What to Do About Bloody Noses

By Howard J. Bennett

A few weeks ago, I went into my son’s room to wake him up for school. When he grumbled and put his head under the pillow, I noticed that his pillowcase was splattered with dried blood. Since I’m and doctor, I didn’t panic. However, lots of parents get upset when they discover that one of their kids had a nosebleed during the night. Most people don’t like seeing blood—especially from a family member. Even worse, a small amount of blood can look like a lot when it soaks into pillowcase.

Here are some basic facts about nosebleeds, which are rarely serious.

• Lots of kids (and adults) get them.

• Most people don’t know the correct way to stop a nosebleed.

• There are some common sense things you can do to prevent nosebleeds.

Before I tell you how to stop a nosebleed, let’s talk about your nose. If you stick a finger inside each nostril and push together, you will feel a piece of cartilage called the nasal septum. (I realize this will gross out some of you, but think of it as a science experiment.)

Like most parts of your body, your nasal septum needs blood. Four arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood come together at the front of the nasal septum to form a web-like area of tiny blood vessels known as a Kiessalbach’s Plexus. This is where most nosebleeds start.

The air we breathe can dry out the nose. This effect is exaggerated in dry weather or if someone has a cold or allergy. Trauma can also result in nosebleeds, whether it came from a basketball hitting you in the face or an index finger trying to free a booger.

Which brings me to some of the odd ways people try to stop nosebleeds. The following are incorrect ways to accomplish this task:

• Putting pressure on the bridge of your nose.

• Putting a cold compress on your forehead or the back of your neck.

• Putting your head between your knees.

• Tilting your head back.

The correct way to stop a nosebleed is to sit up with your nose pointing forward. Pinch your nostrils together with gentle pressure and hold this position for five minutes—without looking to see if the bleeding has stopped. Remember to breathe through your mouth! If the bleeding continues, pinch your nostrils for 10 minutes. If that doesn’t work, your parents should call the doctor.

Once the nosebleed stops, do not blow your nose or pick at the scab or it will start bleeding again.

Here are some things you and your family can do to help prevent nosebleeds.

• Increase the humidity in your home during the winter.

• Apply a thin coating of petroleum jelly or similar product to your nasal septum twice a day.

• Try really hard not to pick your nose, especially if you’ve recently had a nosebleed. Your boogers won’t mind, and your parents will be proud of you!


© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
(First published in the Washington Post 9/20/10.)

For more KidsPost articles and lots of other cool stuff,
please visit Dr. B’s website at  www.howardjbennett.com.