Nobody Warned Me About How Common Nosebleeds Are In Kids — Here’s What You Need To Know

An expert explains how to help during a nosebleed.

by Team Scary Mommy

One day while coloring with my kid and listening to her tell the World’s Longest Story about what happened at recess, I looked up to see blood — like fresh, bright red blood — trickling out of her nose and down onto the paper. “Startled” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. It was more like, “Cue the horror movie music because OMG, what is going on here?” Hijinks ensued and let’s just say I didn’t do the best job of staying calm.

Luckily this inaugural nosebleed turned out to be mild and after a few minutes my daughter was able to pick right back up where she left off coloring. But the whole experience got me thinking: What am I supposed to do when my kid gets a nosebleed, and why on earth didn’t anyone tell me how common nosebleeds are in kids? Why was this chapter left out of the manual?

And because — when it comes to a panicky parent — knowledge is indeed power, Scary Mommy sat down with Amina Ahmed, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician with Stanford Children’s Health, to find out more about this pesky occurrence. Read on for everything you need to know.

Most Nosebleeds Are Caused By Something Your Kid Definitely Does.

According to Dr. Ahmed, nosebleeds are pretty common. Around 60% of people — kids and adults alike — will experience a nosebleed at some point in our lives. And the good news is that, even though they can vary between a trickle and a full gush, the majority of them are easily treatable at home! (And pro tip: It’s never actually as much blood as you think it is.) The percentage of nosebleeds that require a hospital visit is reassuringly small, at less than 1%.

So what generally causes nosebleeds in kids? According to Ahmed, the number one culprit is nose picking. Shocking, I know. Kids love to dig around in their nostrils, which can cause a scratch or cut in the soft, mucus-y lining of the nose. And because there are a ton of blood vessels in this part of the body, even tiny irritations can produce what looks like a scary-movie-props-department amount of blood.

Another contributing factor is dryness — particularly during the winter months when the heat is on full blast. Dry air can lead to crusting in the nose (how lovely), which in turn makes it all the more susceptible to bleeding when picked.

They Can Be Prevented (Sort Of).

Although they may be inevitable in most people, it’s possible to take some prevention measures, especially if you suspect your little one’s nosebleeds can be attributed to dry air. Ahmed recommends running a cool mist humidifier at night during the winter. “You can also apply [petroleum jelly] just inside the tip of the nose several times during the day,” in order to keep the area moisturized and prevent cracking.

And please, for the love of God, discourage your kid from picking their nose as much as humanly possible.

The First Step Of Treating A Nosebleed Is Keeping Your Cool.

Before you do anything else, take a deep breath. “I know it’s very scary for parents to see fresh blood coming out of the nose,” Ahmed says. “But children often feed off of the way they see their parents react, so it’s important to stay calm.”

Start by having your kid sit up straight. Then pinch the soft, spongy part just beyond the bridge of the nose and keep applying that pressure for at least five minutes. Per Ahmed, “Five to 10 minutes can feel like an eternity in the moment, but you need to keep the pressure on for a minimum of five minutes” in order to successfully quell bleeding.

Many of us grew up being told to lean our heads back to stop a nosebleed, but Ahmed advises against this. Lying down while experiencing a nosebleed can cause other problems, like vomiting. (Can you imagine going from nosebleed to vomiting? No, thank you.) She also cautions against packing the nose with tissue, since the pressure from pinching is what actually stops the bleeding and a tissue can sometimes even pull away the scab and start the nosebleed all over again.

Another tip Ahmed recommends for staving off anxiety is talking to kids about nosebleeds before they occur — whether it happens to a friend on the playground or someone on TV, it’s a good idea to make them aware of the possibility so there are no surprises if and when it does happen.

Know When To Seek Medical Treatment.

While it’s a relief to learn how ridiculously common nosebleeds are, it’s key to take note of the instances when this common childhood condition could actually be indicative of a bigger issue. “If your child is experiencing nosebleeds two to three times per week for a month, and you’ve already tried all the common interventions, this warrants a call to the doctor,” Ahmed tells Scary Mommy.

Just like so many aspects of parenting, nosebleeds can certainly be messy. But when you’ve got the facts on your side, they can be a heck of a lot less scary. To learn more, visit