A broken nose is a common injury, usually caused by a blow to the face. Most broken noses heal naturally in two to three weeks and they can often be managed at home.
The swelling should go down within a week, and the bruising should disappear after two weeks.
This page describes the signs of a broken nose and gives advice on what to do.
How do I know if I've broken my nose?
A broken nose will be painful, swollen and red. Other typical symptoms include:
- bruising around the eyes (black eyes)
- a nosebleed
- tenderness when you touch the nose
- a crunching or crackling sound when you touch the nose
- the nose looking deformed
- difficulty breathing out of the nose, as if something is blocking it
Many broken noses can be cared for at home and medical treatment isn't always necessary, especially if the skin and septum (wall between the nostrils) are still intact.
Caring for your nose at home
You can often manage your broken nose at home by following the advice below:
- Hold an ice pack (frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel will also work) to the nose for 10-15 minutes every few hours for the first couple of days.
- If your nose is bleeding, pinch the soft part of your nose just above your nostrils for 10-15 minutes to stop the bleeding. Lean your head forward to prevent blood trickling down your throat.
- Take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve the pain.
- Prop your head up in bed by sleeping on a few pillows to help reduce the swelling.
If your nose looks deformed, don't attempt to straighten it yourself. See your GP for advice.
If your nose looks straight and your symptoms start to improve after a few days, you may not need to seek medical advice.
In these cases, you should avoid wearing glasses until the swelling has gone down and you should try not to pick or blow your nose until it's healed. Avoid strenuous activities for at least two weeks and avoid contact sports for at least six weeks.
When to see your GP
Contact your GP if:
- the pain gets worse or is not relieved by ordinary painkillers (your GP may be able to prescribe a stronger painkiller)
- the swelling doesn't go down after a few days
- the swelling has gone down, but you still find it difficult to breathe through your nose
- your nose looks crooked
- you have nosebleeds that keep coming and going
- you have a high temperature (fever)
It's important not to delay seeing your GP for too long if you have any concerns. If further treatment is necessary, this is most successful if carried out within a week or two of the injury.
When to go to hospital
Go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if:
- you have a nosebleed that won't stop
- you have an open wound over your nose
- clear fluid is trickling from your nose (this could indicate a serious head injury)
- you have a severe headache
- you have neck pain or a stiff neck - especially if there is numbness or tingling in your arms
- you have problems with your vision, such as blurred or double vision
- you have other symptoms of a severe head injury
- you can feel or see a swelling (a blood clot) in your septum - this needs to be drained as soon as possible
Treatment for a severely broken nose
If your nose is crooked or the skin is broken, you'll probably need to be assessed and treated in hospital.
A doctor may be able to realign your nose using special instruments under general anaesthetic (where you're asleep) or sometimes a local anaesthetic (where the nose is numbed). You may need to return after a few days when the swelling has gone down before this can be carried out, but it should ideally be done within 14 days of the injury.
If necessary, it may be possible to have a procedure to improve the appearance of your nose at a later stage, but this is generally more difficult and less successful than early treatment.
Any broken skin will need to be closed with stitches or adhesive strips. If your nose is bleeding continuously, a doctor may pack your nose with a soft gauze pad to stop it. This will be removed by your doctor in a few days.
Your doctor will let you know about any activities you need to avoid while you recover and whether you need to see a specialist for a follow-up appointment to check that the bones are healing in the correct position.