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Treating Broken Noses

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Updated May 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Broken noses are almost always the result of trauma to the face. Symptoms include pain, visible deformity, bleeding and in severe cases difficulty breathing and bruising around the eyes or "black eyes." A broken nose can cause a deviated septum.

First aid for broken noses:

  • breathe through your mouth
  • Do not move if it is possible that there could be damage to your neck or spine. Have someone call 911.
  • If your neck is okay lean forward and gently pinch the nostrils together. This will help to stop the bleeding and prevent blood from running into the back of the throat and being swallowed.
  • Apply a cold compress to help control pain and swelling.
  • You may use acetaminophen to control pain or a doctor may prescribe something stronger. Inform your doctor of any over-the-counter pain relievers you took before coming to the clinic or ER.

All known or suspected broken noses should be checked out by a doctor. Broken noses are a medical emergency if:

  • you cannot control bleeding
  • you have difficulty breathing
  • other serious injuries are suspected, especially injuries of the spine or neck
  • a significant amount of clear fluid is draining from the nose
  • there are large blood clots present
  • the tissue of the nose turns black

It may be surprising to know that x-rays are not particularly helpful in diagnosing and treating broken noses. Also, many fractures do not need to be repaired but just need time to heal. Your doctor may recommend light activity, particularly avoiding any activity that could result in a face injury for about six weeks while the nose heals. The bone will be reset only if there is obviously physical deformity, or the fracture is interfering with breathing. There are some serious complications in the case of broken noses however. A hematoma (a blood filled abcess) may form (most often in 24-48 hours of the injury) and if it is not drained in a timely manner can result in tissue death and actually cause the nose to collapse. Sometimes surgery is necessary to repair these types of problems, to reset the bone or repair a deviated septum.

Sources:

Medline Plus. Nose Fracture. Accessed: July 19, 2010 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000061.htm

University of Maryland Medical Center. Nose Fracture - Overview. Accessed: July 19, 2010 from http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/000061.htm

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