This article has been medically reviewed by Howard Orel, MD. Board-certified and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Orel runs an active general pediatric practice, Advocare Marlton Pediatrics. He also serves as CEO of Advocare — one of the largest independent medical groups in the country.
It’s always disturbing seeing blood come out of any part of your child’s body, but when the source of blood is on their little face, it can be particularly upsetting. And yes, that includes their nose. Nose bleeding in children is pretty common, but that doesn’t make it any less startling when it happens. Before becoming a parent, you may not have given much thought to nosebleeds — at least since you were a young person yourself (who didn’t have at least one gusher growing up?). But they’re one of those standard features in kids that you forget about until your child gets a nosebleed while sleeping or doing some other activity while awake. And when it does happen to your child, panic ensues. So, what you need is a game plan, Mama.
We want to help arm you with the information you need to create that game plan. With that said, here’s what you should know about the causes of nose bleeding in children and toddlers — and how to stop it.
What are nosebleeds in children?
Let’s back up for a second and talk about what happens when a child gets a nosebleed. It’s actually pretty straightforward: According to Cedars-Sinai, it’s when a broken blood vessel causes bleeding from tissues inside the nose (nasal mucus membranes). Most nosebleeds in children involve the front part of their nose, close to their nostril — an area with a lot of easily damaged tiny blood vessels. You may also hear nosebleeds referred to by their medical name “epistaxis” (or maybe not). And while some kids are more prone to nosebleeds than others, it’s typically something they outgrow by the time they reach their teens.
What causes nose bleeding in children?
While there are a variety of different things that can cause nose bleeding in children. Some of the most common include:
- Dry air
- Picking the nose
- Blowing the nose too hard
- Injury to the nose
- Colds, seasonal allergies, and sinus infections
- An object in the nose
Sometimes, a child or toddler might get a nosebleed without a noticeable cause (you know, just to keep you on your toes).
Frequent nose bleeding in a child typically occurs because they have one or more of the risk factors that increase their chances of getting a bloody nose. These include:
- Living in a dry climate
- Picking their nose
- Having allergies
- Having a cold
It’s also possible for a child to get a nosebleed while sleeping. This typically happens for reasons including:
- They’re picking their nose in their sleep without realizing it
- The air is super-dry in their bedroom
- They have a cold or allergies
If your child has a fever along with a nosebleed, it could be a sign that they’re sick with a cold or sinus infection.
Can nosebleeds be a sign of something more serious?
Typically, nosebleeds aren’t a big deal, especially in kids. Even picking their noses too often can cause a gusher. But if it happens frequently and heavily, it could be a sign of a bigger issue. More severe causes include blood clotting or vessel disorders, nasal tumors, high blood pressure, or early signs of leukemia.
How do you stop nose bleeding in a child?
It’s possible to stop nosebleeds in children at home. Even better? Stopping a kid’s nose from gushing typically only takes about 20 minutes. Here’s what to do:
- Have the child sit up and lean forward.
- If they have any blood in their mouth or throat, have them spit it up. (If they’ve already swallowed it, don’t be surprised if they vomit it up.)
- Have them blow their nose once — just once — to dislodge and remove any large clots.
- Gently pinch the soft part of the lower nose between your thumb and forefinger for 10 minutes. (If they’re old enough, teach them how and where to do it themselves.)
- In addition to pinching the nostril, it is also helpful to apply ice to the nose if the child will allow it. According to Dr. Orel, cold helps shrink the blood vessels and stops the bleeding quicker.
- While all of this is going on, have your child breathe through their mouth.
- If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after 10 minutes, you can try putting gauze covered in petroleum jelly into their nostril and hold it closed for an additional 10 minutes.
- Leave the gauze in for another 10 minutes before removing it.
If the nose bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes, it’s a good idea to call your doctor.
The long-term treatments for a nosebleed in a child largely depend on what caused it to start bleeding in the first place. For example, if their bedroom has overly dry air, consider getting them a humidifier. If they’re experiencing other upper respiratory symptoms — like those related to a cold, allergies, or a sinus infection — ask your doctor how best to treat their condition.
Dr. Orel also noted that parents should be mindful of other symptoms that may warrant more attention. Along with a prolonged nosebleed, if a child with a nosebleed has any other signs of bleeding or easy bruising, that should be brought to the attention of a doctor immediately as it could signify an underlying problem. However (take a deep breath, Mama!), Dr. Orel stresses that while that sounds scary, it’s pretty rare.