Is your child prone to nosebleeds?

Little Henry ran inside the house shouting that his nose was bleeding. His friends told his mother that his nose started to bleed a few minutes after he joined them to play football.

Nose bleeds are common in young children, where it is usually mild. In fact, the majority will have stopped bleeding before they were assessed by a doctor when rushed to the hospital.

”Nose bleeds, or epistaxes, is a symptom and not a disease. Its cause may range from something that is not serious to something that is sinister; which is why whenever  a child starts bleeding from the nose the parent should show concern,” said Dr Ayotunde Fasunla, an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan.

He declared that although any part of the nose can bleed, most children however bleed from the frontal or anterior part of their noses.

The nose is very prone to bleeding. This is because of the important role it plays in warming and humidifying the air we breathe. Large numbers of small blood vessels lie just under a thin layer of skin, which may bleed on any damage.

According to Dr Fasunla, causes of nose bleed in children could include something happening within the nose or outside the nose. “In the dry season, when the nose becomes a little bit dry, children try to pick the dry mucus. By doing so, they can tear the inner lining of the nose  which makes it to start bleeding.

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“Sometimes when the environment is very hot and with low levels of humidity, it could cause some people, especially the children, to bleed from their nose because of the change in the temperature.”

One study from the United States showed 40  per cent more attendances to the emergency department for nose bleeds in winter, while nose bleeds in parts of Africa are higher in the hot, dry season.

He added that more boys tend to bleed from their nose than girls during a fall when they hit their nose on the floor. Girls tend to be very careful whenever they are playing, unlike the boys that jump around and sustain injury from a fall.

Sometimes blunt trauma causes nosebleeds when children stick small objects up their noses or when adults try to extract those items.

Children who have nasal allergies are also more likely to have nosebleeds because they rub their noses and blow them more often.

Moreover, he declared that there is a possibility of a nose bleed when a child has a growth. Such growth could be present at birth or develop over time.

Although, most nose bleed in children occur due to injury say, a car accident or a punch, he added that some cases are due to health problems such as nasal infection, bleeding disorders, blood clotting disorders, chronic sinus infections and cancer.

However, if the bleeding is severe or persists for more than 30 minutes or is caused by a blow to the head or side effects of medication, she urged  that such a child be brought to the hospital to see a doctor.

Simple nose bleeds can usually be managed with simple treatments. “Every form of nose bleed needs medical attention because the mother did not know the cause of the nose bleeding, either it occurs frequently or regularly, it needs medical attention,” he added.

Simple nose bleeds treatments that can be used include applying pressure or ice to the nose to help to reduce blood loss.

He warned, however, that where the nose bleeds is due to growth within the nose, irrespective of the amount of pressure exerted, it may not cause the bleeding to stop.

A few common mistakes in treating nosebleeds are putting a cold wash on the forehead, bridge of the nose, back of the neck or under the upper lip. That doesn’t help stop nosebleeds at all. Also, pressing on the bony part of the nose doesn’t help stop nosebleeds because this is not pressing on where the blood is coming from.

So how can nosebleeds in children be prevented? Increasing the humidity in the room that the child sleeps in by using a humidifier also helps. Application of nasal saline to moisturise the noise and wash away any irritants and pollens every day is also good.

In a child with nasal allergies, treating those allergies with antihistamines will also help break the itch-bleeding cycle. And never allow anyone to smoke around the child.