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.
Extremity 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 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.
- 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.
Complications of a broken nose
Most broken noses
heal without problems. When problems develop, they can include:
- Change in the size or shape of the nose or a crooked 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, or bones in the face.
- An abnormality in the tissue that separates the nostrils.
- A hole (perforation) in the septum.
- Severe infection, such as meningitis or a brain abscess, or other CSF infection.
Treatment of a broken nose
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
Measures to reduce pain, swelling, and bruising
- Use ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack immediately to prevent or minimize 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, and press firmly against all the curves of the affected area. Do not apply ice for longer than 20 minutes at a time, and do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.
- Keep your head elevated, even while you sleep. This will help reduce swelling.
- Do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin for the first 48 hours. Aspirin prolongs the clotting time of blood and 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.