By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 21st, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Tears streaming down his face, your child comes running to you with a raging case of epistaxis [eh-pih-STAK-sis]. What on earth can you do?

Give him a tissue and relax. It’s only a nosebleed, and probably a minor one at that. Epistaxis is the scientific name for the very common childhood affliction. Rarely is it a sign of a serious problem.

The nose has many fragile vessels, so any trauma, such as forceful blowing or a direct hit, can cause bleeding. Other culprits include irritation from dryness or a deviated septum.

Nosebleeds occur more frequently in the winter when viruses proliferate and heated indoor air dries out the nostrils. Humidifiers and well-placed lubricants can come in handy to prevent recurrence.

And luckily, most nosebleeds stop quickly. One trick is to pinch the nose between your fingers while breathing through your mouth for five to ten minutes. Never lie down during a nosebleed… instead, sit and lean slightly forward to keep blood from going down the back of your throat.

Seek medical help if the bleeding persists or if there have been a series of incidents that can’t be explained by a cold or other minor irritation.

That’s important, because a recurring problem may indicate bleeding disorders. And for adults, high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries may be at work.

But most of the time, nosebleeds are a minor annoyance… a rite of passage for children that, fortunately, does pass.