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Broken Nose

What Is a Broken Nose?

A broken nose is when a bone in your nose, usually the one over the bridge of your nose, gets cracked or broken. Also called a nasal fracture, it’s the most common type of face injury.

You might not be sure if it's broken. When in doubt, see a doctor. It's better to go sooner rather than later to avoid problems.

Broken Nose Symptoms

These are common symptoms of a nasal fracture:

  • A swollen, bent, or crooked nose
  • Pain, especially when you touch your nose
  • Nosebleed
  • Black eyes or bruises beneath your eyes
  • Trouble breathing through your nose (as though your nostrils are stuffy or blocked)
  • Mucus running out of your nose
  • A “cracking” sound when you touch your nose

Right after you've gotten hurt, you'll need to stop any bleeding and try to reduce pain and swelling. Below are some things you can do until you can get to a doctor.

When to see a doctor

If you only have swelling and moderate pain, you may choose to wait to see your doctor. Your symptoms could improve, and you might get better on your own.

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But see your doctor if 3 to 5 days have passed and you notice any of the following:

  • The pain and swelling aren't getting better.
  • The swelling is gone, but your nose looks crooked.
  • You have a hard time breathing, even after the swelling improves.
  • You're having frequent nosebleeds.
  • You have a fever.

Get emergency help if you have any of these things in addition to nose pain:

  • A severe headache, neck pain, vomiting, or passing out
  • Hard time breathing
  • Bleeding that won't stop
  • Clear, watery fluid draining from your nose

Broken Nose Causes and Risk Factors

A broken nose can happen in a car accident, during a sporting event, in a fistfight, because of a fall, or even from running into a door.

Your chances of a broken nose might be higher if you have problems with balance or you do certain things regularly, including:

  • Play contact sports, like football (especially if your helmet doesn’t have a face mask)
  • Ride a bike
  • Lift weights
  • Ride in motor vehicles without wearing a seat belt

Broken Nose First Aid

You'll need to stop any bleeding and try to reduce pain and swelling. Do these things until you can get to a doctor:

Stop the bleeding

  • Sit up -- don't lie down or lean back. Your nose needs to stay higher than your heart.
  • Lean forward so that the blood won't run into the back of your throat.
  • Pinch the soft part of your nose with your thumb and index finger, and hold it tightly for 5 minutes.
  • If the bleeding hasn't stopped, pinch your nose again for 10 more minutes.

Ease the pain

  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine as directed on the package (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen) as needed.
  • Sleep with your head propped on extra pillows.

Reduce the swelling

  • Wrap an ice pack in a towel. Place it on your nose for 10 minutes, then remove for 10 minutes. Repeat.
  • Don't put pressure on the ice pack -- you may hurt your nose.
  • Put an ice pack or cold compress on your nose at least four times per day for the first 2 days after you get hurt.

Broken Nose Diagnosis

To find out if your nose is broken, your doctor probably will:

  • Ask about how the injury happened
  • Put gentle pressure on the outside of your nose and the area around it
  • Look inside your nose
  • See if you have any bruising, cuts, or swelling
  • Examine your eyes, jaw, and teeth

X-rays and other types of scans aren’t usually needed to diagnose a broken nose, but your doctor might recommend them if they think you could have other injuries.

Broken Nose Treatment

If your doctor confirms that your nose is broken, they'll likely wait for the swelling to go down before deciding whether or not it needs to be fixed. If it does, they'll choose to fix it either with surgery or without. They'll know what's best, based on your injuries. Here's what you can expect from both procedures.

Manual realignment

If your doctor decides your nose can be fixed without surgery, they'll have to do it within 1 to 2 weeks of your accident. If they wait any longer, the injury will begin to heal on its own, even if the bones are out of place.

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Your doctor will give you pain medication before the procedure. Then, they'll open your nostrils with a flat tool called a speculum. They'll use a special instrument to align your broken bones and cartilage back in place.

Your doctor will use packing inside your nose. They'll also put a dressing on the outside. That'll keep your nose in place while it heals. They may give you antibiotics to prevent infection.

Surgery

Your doctor probably will choose this option if your nasal fracture is severe or has gone untreated for more than 2 weeks. The goal is to put your bones back in their proper place and reshape your nose, if necessary.

You'll get pain medication for the procedure. You might also have to have nasal surgery to fix any breathing problems. In many cases, you can go home the day of surgery. But you may have to stay home for about a week due to swelling and bruising.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 22, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Broken Nose.”

American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery: “Nasal fractures,” “Nosebleeds,” “Nose Surgery.”

National Health Service (U.K.): “Broken Nose.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Broken Nose.”

ENT Health: “Nasal Fractures.”

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