While nose bleeds and asthma attacks in kids are fairly common, I often find that parents are understandably worried about them. It doesn’t help when these conditions seem to accelerate during the colder months. As Houston’s version of winter arrives, now might be a good time to talk about how cold air can trigger asthma attacks and nose bleeds in children.
There are many factors that can cause asthma and just as many that can trigger an attack, depending on your child’s individual health. Among those triggers, which is surprising to many parents, is cold, dry air. While you might be able to combat the effect of pollen with medication, or the amount of dust and dander in your home with cleanings and filters, it’s difficult to combat the weather. The reason cold weather can wreak havoc on asthma patients is because the cold air that enters the airways, especially after your child has been in a warm house or classroom all day, can cause those airways to spasm. This initiates asthma symptoms like tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
If you notice an increase in asthma attacks and feel the weather might be the culprit, the best course of action is to make sure your child’s asthma is being effectively managed. Take your son or daughter in to see their doctor to ensure his or her medication is doing its job. Be sure your child is carrying an inhaler if one has been prescribed. You can also instruct him or her to keep a scarf around the mouth and nose when going from one climate to another (such as indoor to outdoor or vice versa) to help decrease the chances of a sudden temperature change causing a reaction. Breathing through their nose instead of their mouth will also help your child.
Some kids are prone to nosebleeds and some are not, but there is one consistency: instances of nosebleeds increase in all children during cold weather. Reaching into your toddler’s crib to remove your daughter after her nap and finding her face covered in blood, although distressing, isn’t uncommon. The reason is dry air. Most of these nosebleeds are what we call anterior nosebleeds, meaning the bleeding is stemming from an area near the nostrils at the front of the nose. Dry air, whether experienced outside where it’s cold, or inside where the heater is on, causes the nasal membranes to dry out. This can create itchiness, and those areas may bleed when children scratch at them. Nose bleeds also increase during winter weather because the common cold and the flu are more prevalent during this time, and both of those conditions can cause irritation to the lining of the nose.
To help prevent nosebleeds caused by dry air, keep fingernails short to discourage scratching. Nasal spray, if it is recommended by your doctor, can also be used to keep your child’s nasal passages from drying out. Keeping a bedroom humidifier running may also help if the air inside your home is dry. If your child has a nosebleed, don’t have him or her lean back. Have your child sit up straight, then tilt the head slightly forward and pinch the soft part of the nose with a tissue or soft cloth for about 10 minutes. If bleeding continues, contact your doctor.
Dr. Jennifer Lai is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. She’s accepting appointments for kids of all ages. Her clinical interests include general Pediatrics, newborns, autism, and obesity.