Nose picking leading to nosebleeds

Ways to prevent your child's nosebleeds - and how to know when medical help is required.

Q: I have an eight-year-old who picks his nose and has frequent nosebleeds as a result. I’ve tried to ignore it and hope he stops. I’ve tried asking him to stop. Nothing works.

A: As with any habit, your son’s nose-picking probably began as a way to relieve some discomfort, maybe stress or simply nasal irritation. If your son has allergies that affect his nose, you need to address that problem before starting any behavioural approaches to stop his nose-picking habit. So make an appointment with his doctor to assess that. While you’re there, the doctor can explain the issue of your son’s nosebleeds to him, as well as the treatment, which involves applying direct pressure with the fingers while your son leans forward to avoid swallowing blood.

If your son’s nosebleeds continue for more than a few minutes, it would be wise to have his doctor check for bleeding problems, such as a low platelet count. (Platelets are the cells that help blood to clot.)

If there are no allergies or medical issues, you can help lessen the desire to pick by making sure your son’s nose remains moist. Run a cool-mist humidifier, or try an over-the-counter saline nose spray or nasal hydrating gel. At the same time, set up a reward system: If your son is able to refrain from picking during the day and stays nosebleed-free at night, a prearranged treat, such as a new book or a trip to the zoo, will be his.

Watch for any signs that indicate the nose-picking is a result of stress. If that’s the case, the cause of your son’s stress must be addressed — or another stress-relieving habit will certainly develop in its place.