Nosebleeds in Children what they mean

Nosebleeds in Children – What they mean

15 August 2023
Posted by: Chelsea

Many children are subject to fairly regular nosebleeds.

Although these can be very alarming for the child concerned and the adults around them, in the vast majority of cases these events mean little. However, some familiarity with basic first aid techniques might help to put your mind at rest.

Causes

Nosebleeds (the medical term is “epistaxis”) arise when a blood vessel has suffered a slight leak or in some instances, where the nasal lining has been scratched or perforated. They are more common in children than adults, although older people may start to experience them again later in life.

For unknown reasons, nosebleeds are more common in males than females.

Most childhood bleeds tend to be very localised in the nose itself, though some might have their origin higher in the nose or in the areas that sit between the top and rear of the nose and the passages leading down to the throat.

In the vast majority of instances, the causes of childhood epistaxis are fairly mundane:

  • nose-picking that has damaged the delicate nasal linings or a small vessel;
  • sneezing or blowing the nose too hard or too frequently. This often happens during hay fever season or if the child has a cold;
  • a bump to the nose during play;
  • some types of infection;
  • medication, notably those that thin the blood or prevent fast coagulation.

Some types of bleeding may be caused by potentially more serious conditions but that is very rare in children:

  • severe anaemia;
  • some vitamin or other key dietary deficiencies;
  • various forms of tumour;
  • injury or blows to the head;
  • some blood disorders and genetic conditions (e.g., haemophilia).

It should be stressed that the vast majority of nosebleeds will have their cause in the first category above. The occasional nosebleed is typically not cause for concern.

Most children who have been troubled by nosebleeds through their younger years seem to grow out of them by the age of 10-12. For some, the problems may continue into later life and there are treatments available to help in those cases.

Duration

Almost all childhood nosebleeds will be over within 5-10 minutes.

Quantities

Medical professionals know that many parents, driven by natural concern for their child, will tend to overestimate the blood flow and therefore the amount of blood their child will have lost. To put it simply, unless one is used to dealing with traumas that produce blood, a very small amount can seem to be much larger than it is in reality.

In 5-10 minutes, a bleeding nose can stain a shirt, shorts and 2 handkerchiefs but in reality, the quantities lost will typically be very small.

However, it is very rare, though not unknown, for a routine nosebleed to lead to a significant loss of blood for a child who is otherwise in normal good health.

First aid techniques

Surprisingly, there are several techniques for dealing with a nosebleed and some doctors, nurses and first-aiders may well prefer one to another.

It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or nurse for their approved technique but one commonly encountered includes:

  • ask your child to sit with their head tilted forward. This may increase the blood flow slightly but the old approach of putting the head back is now not recommended, as
  • it may encourage blood to go down the back of the throat and be swallowed – possibly leading to vomiting;
  • pinch the nose just below the bridge area firmly but gently for around 10 minutes;
  • once stopped, if the bleeding was heavy and of longer duration, do not allow the child to play very rough games, run about a lot or consume hot drinks for around 12-24 hours.

Medical intervention

You should seek medical help if:

  • the bleeding isn’t stopping after 10-15 minutes or so with you applying the above pressure;
  • your child is experiencing regular nosebleeds over time.

For the following, don’t wait 15 minutes but get help immediately if:

  • the bleed started with (or shortly after) a blow to the head;
  • your child has a serious medical condition or is taking medication that is known to affect blood coagulation (this will usually have already been highlighted by your doctor and on the medication’s instructions);
  • the quantities appear to be excessive.
  • the bleeding is accompanied by other significant medical symptoms, such as a headache, dizziness, drowsiness, unconsciousness, a loss of musculature control or breathing difficulty etc.

In all such cases, try to stay calm. If the problem does require intervention, that might include special pastes being used inside the nose or possibly the insertion of some small sponges. The medical specialists would discuss such options with you if necessary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *