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Nose Injuries

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Topic 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 is not broken. When the swelling goes down after a few days, it is 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 computed tomography (CT) scan of the head, if other facial injuries or fractures are suspected. See a picture of a broken nose camera.gif.

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

  • You have a nosebleed that you can't stop. See how to stop a nosebleed camera.gif.
  • 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 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 adviser, or a health professional such as a doctor, nurse, or counselor.
  • You have persistent drainage from one or both nostrils. This may be caused by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) draining from the brain into the nose (CSF rhinorrhea) and can occur after a head injury or after surgery on the nose or ears. There is a chance you may get a CSF infection, such as meningitis, which can affect the nervous system and be life-threatening.

Most broken noses heal without problems. When problems develop, 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 nasal stuffiness.
  • An infection of the nose, sinuses camera.gif, or bones in the face.
  • An abnormality in the tissue that separates the nostrils (deviated nasal septum camera.gif).
  • A hole (perforation) in the septum.
  • Severe infection, such as meningitis or a brain abscess, or other CSF infection.

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 setting a broken nose. Most swelling goes down after 2 or 3 days but may take as long as 7 to 14 days. After the nose is set, nasal packing may be inserted and a splint may be applied. You may be given 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 is important to look for other injuries to the head, face, and neck, such as a broken cheekbone, an eye injury, an injury to the mouth or teeth, or a cervical spine injury. If you think there are other injuries, use the topics in the Related Information section to evaluate these injuries.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 18, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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