Broken Nose Overview
A broken nose is any crack or fracture in the bony portion of the nose.
Broken Nose Causes
Causes of a broken nose are related to trauma to the nose or face. Common sources of trauma include the following:
- Sports injury
- Personal fights
- Motor vehicle accidents
Broken Nose Symptoms
Signs that suggest a person has a broken nose may include the following:
- Tenderness when touching the nose
- Swelling of the nose or face
- Bruising of the nose or under the eyes (black eye)
- Deformity of the nose (crooked nose)
- When touching the nose, a crunching or crackling sound or sensation like that of rubbing hair between 2 fingers
- Pain and difficulty breathing out of the nostrils
When to Seek Medical Care
Call the doctor if any of the following occur:
- The pain or swelling does not go away in 3 days.
- The nose looks crooked.
- Breathing through the nose is not possible after the swelling has gone down.
- A fever develops.
- Recurring nosebleeds develop.
- A significant injury that requires medical attention possibly exists.
Go to a hospital’s emergency department immediately if the following signs or symptoms are present:
- Bleeding for more than a few minutes from one or both of the nostrils
- Clear fluid draining from the nose
- Other injuries to the face or the body
- Loss of consciousness (fainting)
- Severe or unrelenting headaches
- Repeat vomiting
- Decrease or change in vision
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms
- Significant injury that may require immediate medical attention
Exams and Tests
In the emergency department, a doctor will examine the head and neck.
- The doctor will inspect the outside and the inside of the nose, often using special instruments. Expect the examination to be somewhat painful.
- Depending on the injuries, the doctor may perform a thorough exam.
- Doctors do not recommend x-ray films and blood work routinely because these tests do not alter the course of treatment.
Broken Nose Treatment Self-Care at Home
Taking the following actions at home may help reduce the symptoms of a broken nose.
- Place some ice wrapped in a cloth over the nose for about 15 minutes at a time and then remove the ice. This process can be repeated multiple times throughout the day. Use ice at the time of injury and for 1-2 days afterward to reduce pain and swelling. Be sure to take breaks between applications, and do not apply the ice directly to the skin.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce pain. Only use these medications as directed.
- Take an over-the-counter nasal decongestant to aid in breathing through the nostrils.
- Be sure to read warning labels associated with these medications.
- These medications should not be used for more than 3 days.
- Elevate the head, especially when sleeping, to avoid increased swelling of the nose. Prop the head up with pillows or lift the head of the bed by placing large blocks or phone books under the mattress.