Cut and Broken Nose: Stitches or Tape

You have a cut and broken nose. The cut (laceration) may bleed. And your broken nose may cause pain, swelling, and nasal stuffiness. Your nose may bleed or leak a clear fluid. The break may be a minor crack or a major break with the parts pushed out of place. In one day, you may have bruising around the eyes from a broken nose. 

The cut may be closed so it heals faster. A deep cut often needs stitches. Minor cuts may be closed with surgical tape or skin glue.

If your nose has a minor break, it will likely heal with no more treatment. If your break changes the shape of the nose, you will need surgery to straightening the nasal bones (reduction). It's often best to wait until swelling has gone down to reduce a broken bone. But certain breaks may need to be straightened sooner. Your healthcare provider will give you more information.

Depending on the cause of the injury and your vaccine status, you may need a tetanus shot.

Home care

  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic. This is to help prevent infection. Follow all instructions for taking this medicine. Take the medicine every day until it's gone or you are told to stop. You should not have any left over.

  • The healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for pain. Follow instructions for taking them.

  • Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions on how to care for the cut:

    • Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for the cut. This helps prevent infection.

    • If a bandage was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, replace it. Otherwise, leave it in place for the first 24 hours, then change it once a day or as directed.

    • If stitches were used, clean the wound daily. After removing the bandage, wash the area with soap and water. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms. After cleaning, pat the wound dry. Reapply a fresh bandage.

    • You may remove the bandage to shower as usual after the first 24 hours, but don't soak the area in water (no swimming) until the stitches are removed.

    • If surgical tape was used, keep the area clean and dry. If it becomes wet, blot it dry with a towel.

  • Most facial skin wounds heal without problems. But an infection sometimes occurs despite correct treatment. Watch for the signs of infection listed below.

  • Apply an ice pack to help ease pain and swelling. You can make an ice pack by putting ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel. Place the ice pack gently on the nose for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. Continue with ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days, then as needed.

  • Don't drink alcohol or hot liquids for the next 2 days. Alcohol or hot liquids in your mouth can dilate blood vessels in your nose and cause bleeding.

  • Don't blow your nose for the first 2 days. Then, do so gently so you don't cause bleeding.

  • Don't play contact sports in the next 6 weeks unless you can protect your nose from re-injury. Special custom-fitted plastic facemasks are available for this purpose.

Note about concussion

Because the injury was to your head, it's possible that you could have a mild brain injury (concussion). Symptoms of concussion can show up later. For this reason, be alert for symptoms of a concussion. Seek emergency medical care if you have any of these over the next hours to days:

  • Headache

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Sensitivity to light or noise

  • Unusual sleepiness or grogginess

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Personality changes

  • Vision changes

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion

  • Trouble walking or clumsiness

  • Loss of consciousness (even for a short time)

  • Inability to be awakened

  • Leaking of clear fluid from your nose. This is a symptom of a more serious problem

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Be sure to return to have stitches removed as directed. Ask your provider how long stitches should remain in place. If surgical tape closures were used, you may remove them yourself when your provider recommends if they have not fallen off on their own. Skin glue will also fall off on its own.

Call the referral doctor if your nose appears crooked or if you can't breathe through both nostrils after the swelling goes down. Ask to be seen within 7 days of injury.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Stitches come apart or fall out, or if surgical tape closures fall off before 5 days

  • Bleeding from the nose that is not controlled by pinching the nostrils together for 10 minutes

  • Signs of infection. These include increasing swelling, pain, or redness around the wound, or pus draining from the wound.

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • Inability to breathe from both sides of the nose after swelling goes down

  • Sinus pain

  • Changes in vision

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