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After Nasal Cautery: How to Care for Your Child

Nasal cautery is a short procedure that usually prevents future nosebleeds.

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The septum is the cartilage that divides the nose in half. It's lined with tiny blood vessels that are close to the surface, where they can be injured easily. A broken blood vessel in the nose can cause blood to come out of the nostril, and even a very small nosebleed can look alarming.

Nasal cautery can be a good choice for kids who keep getting nosebleeds even after using ointments and nose sprays as the health care provider recommended. The procedure is often done using general anesthesia (the child is asleep).

The health care provider looked inside your child's nose to find the blood vessels that were causing nosebleeds. These vessels were bigger and closer to the skin's surface than other vessels. Then the health care provider touched the end of these vessels with either a chemical called silver nitrate or a small electric current. This is called cautery or cauterization and seals the end of the vessels so they cannot bleed. For a few hours after cautery with silver nitrate, some kids feel a little pain or burning in their nose. Kids who had general anesthesia for this procedure may have some nausea or vomiting afterward.

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  • Remind your child not to blow, rub, or pick the nose for at least 12 hours after the cautery procedure.

  • As instructed, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment inside the nostrils (on the center wall between them) twice a day with a cotton swab or your finger to prevent dryness.

  • If your child complains of a burning feeling in the nose, squirt nasal saline to rinse it.

Sometimes a nosebleed happens after cautery. Follow these instructions:

  • Stay calm and comfort your child.

  • Have your child sit up and tilt the head slightly forward to keep blood from running down the back of the throat.

  • Have your child use the thumb and index finger to pinch the nostrils or soft part of the nose together and hold it constantly for 10 minutes. If the bleeding hasn't stopped after 10 minutes, pinch the nose shut for another 10 minutes.

  • If your health care provider recommended it, use a nasal decongestant spray for a nosebleed that does not stop.

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Your child has:

  • Nosebleeds happening as they did before the procedure.

  • Blood going down the back of the throat even with the head tilted forward. This may signal a more serious, less common condition called a posterior (back of the nose) nosebleed that requires a doctor's care.

  • Any pain not relieved with nasal saline.

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Your child:

  • Still has nose bleeding after pinching the nose for a total of 20 minutes.

  • Is bleeding heavily or has lost a large amount of blood (more than 1 cup).

  • Has a new nosebleed from an injury or blow to the head or face.

  • Feels weak or faint.

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Don't overheat your home, which can dry the lining of the nose and make it bleed more easily. Consider using a humidifier in your child's bedroom.

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