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Kids and the bloody-nose blues

A cartoon girl holds a tissue to her nose

Most children will experience at least one nosebleed. Planning how you'll respond can make the experience less traumatic for you and your child.

You can almost expect your child to have a bloody nose or two. But that doesn't mean the blood won't come as a shock—to both you and your child.

Knowing what to do will help you stay calm.

Treating a nosebleed

Even if you're a little startled yourself, try to stay relaxed and reassure your child that everything is going to be all right, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

  • Have your child sit or stand with his or her head tilted slightly forward. Keep the head higher than the heart.
  • Using a cold compress if you have one (otherwise, use your fingers), gently pinch the nose shut for 10 minutes. This should give the bleeding time to stop. Don't let go during this time to see if the bleeding has stopped. And don't lean the child's head back. This can send blood down the back of the throat, which can irritate the stomach and may make a child throw up.
  • Release the pressure after 10 minutes. If bleeding continues, pinch the nose closed for 10 more minutes. If it still hasn't stopped, call your doctor or go to an emergency department.

You should also see a doctor if:

  • The nosebleed begins after an injury, such as a fall or something hitting the face.
  • Your child is unusually pale or sweaty.
  • Your child often has nosebleeds along with a stuffy nose.

Preventing nosebleeds

The AAP and other experts offer these tips to help prevent nosebleeds:

  • Keep the nose moist with a saline nasal spray.
  • Apply petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment inside the nose, especially to the center wall of the nose. Do this with a cotton swab three times a day, including at bedtime.
  • Keep the child's nails short to discourage picking.
  • If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier.

Reviewed 9/26/2023

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