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Dr. Glen Ward, a pediatrician in Surrey, B.C., and chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society Public Education Advisory Committee, says "most of the time, a nosebleed is no big deal." However, it doesn't hurt to keep track of how frequently and for how long your child's nosebleeds occur.
What's causing that unexpected bleeding?
Nosebleeds can be caused by trauma – a stick or puck to the face, for example – and in those cases you may want to see a doctor to be sure nothing is broken or damaged.
Otherwise, nosebleeds sometimes just start, seemingly at random, and they can catch everybody off guard. Dry air, allergies and nose picking – or a combination thereof – can all cause nosebleeds, especially if your child's itchy, allergy-irritated nose leads him or her to pick it.
In many parts of Canada, dry winter air can bring on nosebleeds, but the opposite may also be true. Ward says that damp air can aggravate allergies and lead to nosebleeds as well.
"Be aware of humidity levels in your home," he says, and find the balance that's right for your family.
Dos and don'ts for stopping and managing nosebleeds
If your child's nose starts bleeding, the most important first step is to not panic, says Ward.
1. Have your child lean forward and hold a tissue or clean washcloth to his or her nostrils.
2. Gently pinch the bridge of the nose on the soft part, just in front of the bone.
3. After five minutes of gentle pressure, check to see if the bleeding has stopped. If it hasn't, reapply pressure for another five minutes or until the bleeding stops.
Don't let your child lie down or lean back as the blood may go down his or her throat.
To prevent recurring nosebleeds, you may want to make sure your child's nails are kept trimmed and short. If dryness seems to be an issue, Ward recommends using a cotton swab on a stick to gently spread some petroleum jelly just inside the nostrils, which may help curb dryness.
Should you be concerned?
"Nosebleeds are common and they're usually innocent," says Ward, "but occasionally there's a reason for them" and they could be representative of another issue.
If your child has prolonged, persistent nosebleeds, you may want to speak with your doctor. In other words, if your child has nosebleeds lasting upward of 45 minutes, with lots of blood flow, and you have been applying pressure as described above and it's not stopping, it's time to see your family doctor. Don't ignore long nosebleeds or large volumes of blood, especially if these types of nosebleeds occur regularly.
Can kids grow out of nosebleeds?
"Some kids outgrow nosebleeds maybe just because they learn to control their fingers," says Ward.
As kids get older, they may have fewer nosebleeds, either because their habits have changed or because you have changed the environment that was causing them (such as finding the right balance of humidity in your home).
Dealing with nosebleeds on their own
Ward says that it is important for parents to teach their kids to manage their nosebleeds on their own in case one starts when they're at school or a friend's house.
"It is a blood product," he says, "and we want kids to be sensitive that it's a body fluid" and needs to be contained. They should try their best to not get their blood on surfaces and to not let other people come in contact with it.
When your children have nosebleeds at home, talk them through what you're doing to stop the bleeding and help them understand what they can do to manage the nosebleed efficiently so they can be self-sufficient when you're not around. They should take the same steps to stop the bleeding when a nosebleed occurs outside of your home.