What is nose injuries?

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Nose injuries: Overview

Nose injuries often occur during play, sports, accidents, fights, and falls. Pain, swelling, and bruising are common, even with minor injuries. Home treatment can usually help relieve your symptoms.

It may be hard to tell if your nose is broken. Swelling can make your nose look crooked even if it isn't broken. When the swelling goes down after a few days, it's easier to tell if your nose is really crooked. Most doctors prefer to check an injured nose soon after the swelling has gone down. Sometimes testing may be needed, such as an X-ray or CT scan of the head, if the doctor thinks you might have other facial injuries or fractures.

Seriousness of a nose injury

Whether or not your nose is broken, a nose injury is more serious when:

  • You have a nosebleed that you can't stop.
  • The skin of your nose is cut or punctured, especially if you think your nose may be broken. This increases your risk of infection.
  • A blood clot forms in the tissue that separates the nostrils (septum). This can create a hole (perforation) in the septum. Or it can cause the bridge of the nose to collapse (saddle nose deformity).
  • You think the injury may have been caused by abuse. Physical abuse often causes bruises, burns, fractures, head injuries, and other injuries. If you suspect abuse, seek help. You can call a local child or adult protective services agency, the police, a spiritual advisor, or a health professional such as a doctor, nurse, or counselor.
  • You have drainage that won't stop from one or both nostrils. This may be caused by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) draining from the brain into the nose (CSF rhinorrhea). It can occur after a head injury or after surgery on the nose or ears. There is a chance that you may get a CSF infection, such as meningitis. It can affect the nervous system and be life-threatening.

Complications of a broken nose

Most broken noses heal without problems. When problems occur, they can include:

  • A change in the size or shape of the nose, or a crooked or bent nose. Multiple nose injuries, especially during childhood, increase the risk of damage to the tissues and structures in the nose. This can cause long-term problems.
  • Trouble breathing or a stuffy nose.
  • An infection of the nose, sinuses, or bones in the face.
  • A problem with the tissue that separates the nostrils (deviated nasal septum).
  • A hole (perforation) in the septum.
  • Severe infection, such as meningitis or a brain abscess, or other CSF infection.

Treatment

Treatment of a simple fracture, when the bone is still in place, usually includes pain medicine and nasal decongestants. You may or may not need a nasal splint.

If your nose is broken and out of place, it may need to be set. Most doctors like to wait for any swelling to go down before they set a broken nose. Most swelling goes down after 2 or 3 days, but it may take as long as 7 to 14 days. After the nose is set, nasal packing may be inserted. You may also get a splint. You may get antibiotics to help prevent infection if packing is used. Your doctor may want to recheck your nose and remove the packing in 2 to 3 days.

When you have a nose injury, it's important to look for other injuries to the head, face, and neck. These may include a broken cheekbone, an eye injury, an injury to the mouth or teeth, or a cervical spine injury.

Caring for a minor nose injury

Try the following tips to help relieve pain, swelling, bruising, and stuffiness when you have a minor nose injury.

  • Reduce pain, swelling, and bruising.
    • Use ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack right away to prevent or have less swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack. Press firmly against all the curves of the affected area. Do not apply ice for longer than 20 minutes at a time. And don't fall asleep with the ice on your skin.
    • Keep your head elevated, even while you sleep. This will help reduce swelling.
    • Do not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or aspirin for the first 48 hours. Aspirin makes your blood take longer to clot, and it may cause more nose or facial bleeding. Also, do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
  • Do not smoke.

    Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.

  • Relieve a stuffy nose, and help your sinuses drain.
    • Drink plenty of fluids. Extra fluids help keep mucus thin and draining, which may help prevent blocked sinuses.
    • Try a nonprescription decongestant, such as Sudafed PE, or use saline nasal sprays or drops to relieve a stuffy nose.
    • Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home moist. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine. You may want to try using a small one in your bedroom while you sleep.
    • Inhale steam from a vaporizer, or take long, steamy showers. You may also try breathing the moist air from a bowl of hot water. Put a towel over your head and the bowl to trap the moist air.

If you think you have a more serious nose injury or have a crooked nose, you may need to see a doctor.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.