When you've taken a blow to the nose and it's swollen and bleeding, you may wonder whether or not it's broken. If it is, your injury won't be unique.
A broken nose (also called a nasal fracture) is the most common type of face injury. Noses stick out, so they're easy to break. It can happen in a car accident, during a sporting event, in a fistfight, or even during a clumsy encounter with a door.
You might not be sure if it's broken. When in doubt, see a doctor. It's wise to go sooner rather than later to avoid problems.
What Are Signs That My Nose Is Broken?
These are common symptoms of a nasal fracture:
- A swollen, bent, or crooked nose
- Pain, especially when you touch your nose
- 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.
What Are Some Things I Should I Do Right Away?
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.
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.
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.
When to Call 911
Get emergency help if you have any of these things in addition to nose pain:
Treatment for a Broken Nose
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.
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.
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 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.
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.