Nosebleeds in children are not uncommon. While they usually mean no harm, experts at KK Women's and Children's Hospital tell you what to expect, and when you should see a doctor.
Children usually bleed from the superficial and thin blood vessels at the front portion of the nose on the septum, just behind the nostrils. Such nosebleeds usually decrease after puberty as the nose lining thickens from hormonal changes.
Causes of nosebleeds in kids
The most common causes of nosebleeds in children are:
- Nose-picking – this may also increase the frequency of nosebleeds
Air-conditioning has a drying effect on the nasal lining, and increases the risk of nosebleeds.
In rare instances, bleeding disorders or tumours may cause nosebleeds.
Treatments for nosebleeds
When a child’s nose bleeds, ask him to sit up, lean forward and pinch the lower soft portion of the nostrils together for 5 to 10 minutes, and breathe through the mouth.
An ice pack can be placed across the nose-bridge and forehead or the cheek to allow for reflex constriction of the tiny blood vessels. The majority of nose bleeding stops during this time. If bleeding starts again, compression can be applied for another 10 minutes.
Sitting upright keeps the nose higher than the heart, and reduces the flow of blood to the bleeding site.
If your child’s nose bleeds only once in a few months it is not likely to be of serious concern. However, if it is a regular occurrence i.e. four to five times a month, your child should be reviewed by a specialist to rule out the rare causes – especially so, if your child does not sleep in an air-conditioned environment.
Measures to prevent nosebleeds for your child
A humidifier can be used to reduce the drying caused by air-conditioning as it may not be practical to avoid sleeping in an air-conditioned room in Singapore’s warm equatorial climate.
Advise your child against frequent nose-picking to prevent trauma to the affected area.
If all these measures fail, consult an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) surgeon who may cauterize (seal off) the affected area with diathermy (a procedure using an electric current, usually done under general anaesthesia).
If the child refrains from nose-picking and other predisposing factors are removed, this procedure usually allows for six months to a year of relief from symptoms. The ENT surgeon will also review the child to exclude any serious underlying medical conditions as the cause.