Dr. Mom: Kids often get nosebleeds, so stay calm

03/06/2012 12:00 AM

03/06/2012 10:06 AM

I often counsel parents to remain as calm as possible when their child is sick or hurt. I realize this is much easier said than done.

The other morning, I was awakened from a deep slumber by my 4-year-old daughter standing at my bedside and murmuring "Mama Mama" in an unusually quiet voice.

As my eyes slowly drifted open, I was greeted by a horrible sight blood pouring out of her nose!

She was the calm one. I nearly knocked her over as I jumped out of bed, my brain still trying to connect the dots. I grabbed the nearest towel, applied pressure to the tip of her nose, reigned in my panic and reminded myself that I know what to do.

For goodness' sake, I advise parents often on this very topic.

Nosebleeds, fairly common in children older than age 2, are nothing to worry about, but darn if the sight of that much blood doesn't get your heart pumping a little quicker.

So, why do kids get nosebleeds, and what is the proper way to treat them?

Wintertime is the perfect season for nosebleeds. Cold, dry air, combined with frequent colds or nasal allergies, easily irritate little noses. They become dry and inflamed, and children inevitably pick them.

This combination of factors leads to bleeding in the tiny capillaries within the nose.

Blunt trauma to the face such as a soccer ball to the nose or a fall to the ground can also trigger a nosebleed.

The best way to treat a child's nosebleed is (ahem) stay calm, apply firm pressure to the soft part of your child's nose, use a washcloth or towel to soak up the blood (and it really does seem like a lot), and have your child sit with her head slightly tipped forward (not backward as children will often try to do). Keep pressure on the nose for 10 minutes without letting go.

Most nosebleeds will have stopped after this time. If not, hold pressure for another 10 minutes. If your child's nosebleed will not stop after 20 minutes of applying firm pressure, seek medical attention.

The best way to prevent nosebleeds is to add some moisture back to the indoor air by using a cool mist humidifier in your child's room. Also, use normal saline nose drops for congested and itchy noses to relieve and clear congestion.

Discourage nose picking as much as you can and keep those little fingernails short. Apply Vaseline around the nasal openings to help maintain some moisture and act as a barrier to dryness and irritation.

If your child is suffering from repeated nosebleeds, more than once per week on an ongoing basis, they may need to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist to determine whether your child needs treatment for a blood vessel that is prone to bleeding.

Other red flags include frequent nosebleeds with easy bruising or nosebleeds that coincide with the start of a new medication. This could indicate a disruption in your child's clotting system and should be evaluated by a doctor. Also, check on whether your toddler put something in his nose. Toddlers are funny that way.

Now you know why kids get nosebleeds, also known as epistaxis; how to treat and prevent them; and when to worry. Do your best to remain calm when you find yourself face to nose with one, though I won't blame you if you panic just a little.

Even this Dr. Mom isn't immune to the minor freak- out when tending to her own sick or hurt children.

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