Volunteer and Kenya Red Cross officials perform an accident first aid drill at Elburgon town in Molo, Nakuru County, on May 26, 2014. Almost every time I go to pick Preschooler Mukherjee from school, she’s had a nosebleed.. PHOTO| FILE
Almost every time I go to pick Preschooler Mukherjee from school, she’s had a nosebleed.
This was a little distressing at first, but the fact is that nosebleeds in children are common.
They are caused when a particularly fragile blood vessel in the nasal septum (the thin wall of cartilage dividing the nostrils) bursts or breaks. It normally happens due to a bump, a cold or an allergy - or when the child has been probing her nose!
Before I go into possible causes, it is important to know what to do if your child gets a nosebleed.
The temptation is to get them to put their head back, but not only does this not stop the bleeding, it’ll cause the blood to run down the child’s throat, which can either lead to choking or nausea if swallowed.
What you do need to do is to make sure that your child is sitting upright with their head well forward.
Ask them to breathe through the mouth and then pinch the fleshiest part of the nose quite firmly (a common mistake is to pinch the bony bridge).
After about 10 minutes, the bleeding will stop. If it doesn’t, try again. An ice pack on the nose can also help to slow the bleeding because it makes the blood vessels constrict.
If your child’s nosebleeds are frequent or last more than half an hour, it may be necessary to see an ear, nose and throat specialist for further treatment.
WHAT CAUSES BLEEDING?
What causes the bleeding in the first place? Why doesn’t the blood clot? It has to do with a nutrient called vitamin K. Vitamin K is required to activate enzymes at the various stages in the intricate clotting process.
While foods rich in vitamin K (broccoli, cauliflower, egg yolks, sukuma, spinach and all other leafy green vegetables) can therefore be beneficial, there appear to be two reasons why, even with a good dietary intake, a vitamin K deficiency may arise.
First, regular antibiotic use. Scientists have discovered that the “friendly” bacteria that live in our large intestines produce enough vitamin K to meet most of our body’s needs.
When you take a course of antibiotics, the medication not only kills the bad bacteria causing whatever infection you have, but a lot of the good bacteria too. With regular courses of antibiotics, the levels of these “friendly” bacteria are too low to produce adequate levels of vitamin K. While probiotic foods such as yoghurt are useful in replenishing good bacteria, I prefer to use probiotic supplements in more serious cases.
Salicylates are the second reason children may get frequent nosebleeds.
Salicylates are aspirin-like substances that can block vitamin K, and are found in certain fruit and fruit juices, such as apples, berries, cucumbers, grapes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, plums, prunes, raisins, tangerines and tomatoes - foodstuff that children tend to eat plenty of.
It would be better to swap these for low-salicylate fruits like pears, pineapples, grapefruits, lemons, limes, bananas, kiwis, coconuts, dates, figs, mangoes and papayas.
What about nosebleeds in adults? Often, the cause is stress. You see, stress raises blood pressure, which in turn increases the chances of a nosebleed.
If this sounds like you (and you can’t really be bothered with any other stress-relieving activity), the best thing to do is laugh – it’s the easiest stress-busting tactic I know.