Nosebleeds are quite common and can occur spontaneously. They can also be induced by an injury, picking the nose, or a deeper underlying cause. Here’s everything you need to know about nosebleeds including causes, ways to stop the nosebleed, and treatment options for frequent nosebleeds.
What Causes Nosebleeds?
The delicate tissue inside the nose is susceptible to damage, and blood cells travel very close to the surface of this tissue, making nosebleeds common. Any damage to the lining can damage blood vessels and cause a nosebleed.
Causes of nosebleeds include:
- Dry or hot air that irritates the lining and leads to tiny cracks that can bleed.
- A cold or allergies that block the airway and cause the blood cells to expand, increasing the risk of a nosebleed
- Blowing your nose often or very forcefully, irritating the nasal lining
- Picking the nose, which can leave very small scratches in the lining and break the blood vessels
- Trauma to the head or to the nose
- Certain medications like blood thinners and anti-inflammatory medications.
Certain underlying health conditions or habits can also contribute to frequent nosebleeds, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Smoking cigarettes
- Kidney failure
- Seasonal allergies
Stopping a Nosebleed
If you have a nosebleed, your first priority must be to stop the flow of blood. If the bleeding is coming from far within the nose, or is very heavy, seek medical attention right away.
To stop a nosebleed when the bleeding is coming from the front of the nose, you can try the following steps:
- Sit up straight in a chair, and lean slightly forward.
- Avoid breathing through the nose for a few minutes, and breathe only through your mouth.
- Very gently pinch shut the tip of the nose for a couple of minutes to give the blood a chance to clot, stopping the bleeding.
- Keep pinching the nose for 5 or 10 minutes before checking to see if the nosebleed has stopped.
- If the nose is still bleeding after 10 minutes, you can use a decongestant spray to constrict the blood cells and stop the nosebleed.
- Pinch the nose again and wait for the medication in the spray to be absorbed. You can repeat these steps two or three times.
- If the nosebleed continues, you should seek medical attention.
Once the nosebleed has stopped, don’t blow your nose for at least an hour to allow the nose to heal, otherwise, the nosebleed will likely start again.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If the nosebleed persists for more than a few minutes, you’ll need to seek medical attention. If the bleeding is heavy, and a large amount of blood is going down the throat even when you’re leaning forward, seek emergency medical care immediately. A heavy nosebleed can be very serious, or point to an underlying cause that needs immediate attention.
Once the nosebleed has stopped, the next step is to find a way to treat the nosebleeds. If it was an isolated incident, you can safely ignore it, but if you have frequent nosebleeds, you’ll need to take steps to find the cause of the nosebleed and stop them permanently.
A common treatment option is to change or reduce medications that thin the blood, and can lead to nosebleeds. If the nosebleed is from allergies, medication such as antihistamines can relieve the symptoms and stop the nosebleeds. An injury or a tumor may need surgery to treat the underlying cause, and stop the frequent nosebleeds.
When to See a Doctor About Nosebleeds
If you have infrequent nosebleeds you don’t require medical attention. However, if you have frequent or prolonged nosebleeds, visit your doctor or ENT specialist. They’ll review your medical history to look for underlying causes of the nosebleeds, review your medications and doses, and perform a physical exam to find the cause of the nosebleeds. They may also order a blood test to look for any additional causes.
While most nosebleeds are harmless, and can happen for several benign reasons, if you have frequent or heavy nosebleeds, seek medical attention. Your doctor or ENT will help you find the cause of the nosebleeds, and suggest treatment options to prevent nosebleeds in the future.