Broken Nose

What is a Broken Nose?

A broken nose (nasal fracture) happens when the bone of the nose becomes damaged. It may be cracked, chipped or fragmented. Nasal fractures most often occur during falls, fights, sporting activities and vehicle accidents. Complications can include a deviated septum, nasal blockage, cartilage damage and/or a cervical spinal injury.

What are the Symptoms of  a Broken Nose?

A nasal fracture can be obvious, but not always. X-rays are seldom used because of inaccuracy. It takes a physical exam to determine whether or not the bone is broken. In very serious cases, the cerebrospinal fluid can leak and expose the area around the spinal cord and brain to bacteria that could cause spinal meningitis. A CT scan may be necessary to check for additional injuries.

Symptoms include

  • Pain, especially when pressure is applied
  • Bleeding
  • Misalignment of nose
  • Swelling of nose
  • Swelling around the nose
  • Bruising of the nose
  • Bruising around the eyes
  • Stuffy feeling
  • Nasal discharge
  • Nasal blockage that impedes normal breathing

Broken Nose Causes

A sudden impact that directly hits your face is the usual cause of a broken nose, and it often occurs with other face and neck injuries. Some of the most common mishaps that lead to a broken nose include bumping into a wall, falling down or falling off furniture, automobile accidents, sports-related injuries and physical altercations leading to someone punching or kicking your nose.

Certain groups have a higher chance of getting a broken nose, whether or not they practice sports and other high-risk activities. Children and older adults are more susceptible due to bone growth concerns in each group. Both older adults and younger children also tend to fall more often.

Children learning to walk and toddlers unsteady on their feet tend to be more at risk of nose and other fractures, especially since they are still building bone mass. Older adults are losing bone density, making them more susceptible to breaks and fractures, including broken noses.

Failing to wear proper protective gear during contact sports and physical activities is another major cause of broken noses in young adults.

How is a Broken Nose Treated?

It is a fallacy that nothing can be done to repair a broken nose.  The course of treatment depends on the severity of the break.

Treatment includes

  • Breathing through the mouth and tilting forward shortly after injury to avoid blood drainage into the throat
  • Application of ice about four times a day for up to fifteen minutes each time
  • Oral pain relievers
  • Sleeping in a raised position to reduce pain, throbbing and swelling
  • Rest from physical activities

A more serious break may also require the draining of clotted blood and the realignment of misplaced bone. A realignment (reduction) is typically preformed three to five days after the injury because of swelling. Adults are given a local anesthetic. Kids are usually given a general anesthesia. After a manual realignment, an external and/or internal splint may be applied, and gauze may be packed in the nostrils. Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent infection. Surgery may be necessary if too much time has passed or if the nose and/or surrounding areas have severe or multiple fractures. It takes about six weeks for a broken nose to fully heal.

Broken Nose Prevention

It isn’t always possible to prevent a broken nose. However, following certain guidelines can greatly reduce your risk. Wear your seat belt while driving or riding in a vehicle, and keep your children restrained in child safety seats.

You should also wear safety equipment such as helmets and masks when playing contact sports, and you would also do well to wear a helmet while bike riding or operating a motorcycle. The most common occurrences of sports-related broken noses include those who practice soccer, hockey and martial arts.

There are precautions you can take to decrease your risk of a broken nose. Shoes with great traction can prevent falls, especially for restaurant work. During contact sports, put on face gear to protect your nose. Wear a helmet (and make sure your children wear a helmet) while skateboarding, skiing, or snowboarding.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 21, 2017