Nosebleeds are a common occurrence for children of all ages and have various causes that range from benign to serious. In toddlers, nosebleeds are usually related to minor accidents, nose picking, inflammation, or dry winter air. Most nosebleeds stop a few minutes after pressure is placed on the nasal passages.
As a parent, you’re almost certain to deal with at least one nosebleed during your child’s life but if your toddler experiences frequent nosebleeds, you might need to seek medical assistance.
Your Toddler’s Nosebleed Frequency: Normal Vs. Too Often
Nosebleeds in toddlers can typically occur several times a year or more for the reasons mentioned above. If a child experiences several nosebleeds a week of any type, consider seeing his or her primary care physician or an ENT to rule out more serious issues.
Frequent nosebleeds aren’t usually life-threatening but in rare cases they can cause anemia due to excessive blood loss.
Nosebleeds that occur regularly can also disrupt a child’s normal daily activities. Your child might be unable to participate in a full day of preschool or other activities. If this occurs, it’s worth seeing a medical specialist for help to control nosebleeds.
Your Toddler’s Nosebleed Flow: Light Vs. Heavy
Light nosebleeds are usually characterized by a trickling of blood on the lip and are typically not a concern, even if they occur from time to time. The small amount of blood flow makes anemia less likely to be a risk.
Heavy nosebleeds are sometimes described as being “like a faucet.” The blood flows steadily from the nose, and if pressure is put on the nose, blood may flow back into the throat and is spit out.
These types of nosebleeds can be alarming because the blood loss can appear worse than it actually is. Rarely is a heavy nosebleed life threatening, especially if it's a single occurrence that is attributed to a minor trauma such as being hit in the nose with a toy. If your child's nosebleed ever continues for more than 30 minutes, however, you should seek emergency medical care.
Common ENT Treatments for Toddler Nosebleeds
One of the most important reasons to see an ENT for recurring nosebleeds in a toddler is to rule out serious conditions, which are very rare but can occur. Often, an ENT simply provides guidance about preventing future nosebleeds.
Parents can help prevent most nosebleeds with steps that include using saline spray for the nose, lubricating dry nasal passages with Vaseline, placing a humidifier in the child’s room or home, and avoiding trauma to the nose. Since around 90 percent of nosebleeds occur in the anterior nasal septum, they can be avoided with such preventative measures.
To investigate other potential causes, an ENT will also take a family history to determine if there is a history of or concern about a clotting disorder or other disease that might cause nosebleeds, although these situations are the exception, not the rule.
If one specific vessel in the nasal passage is the problem, an ENT can cauterize it with a silver nitrate compound. Pediatricians sometimes use this same compound to cauterize a persistently bleeding belly button in infants where the umbilical cord area doesn’t heal on its own. This is only an option for if the toddler is cooperative with the procedure, which isn’t always the case. Usually, however, nosebleed issues are minor enough not to warrant putting a child through surgery or other procedures, especially since preventative measures work well.
Nosebleeds are commonplace in childhood and have a variety of causes, the majority of which are no reason for alarm.