A woman with a nosebleed learns how to treat nosebleeds

Nosebleeds are fairly common, with one in every seven people developing one in their lives. What causes them, and how do you stop them?

Nosebleeds are caused when the blood vessels in the septum – the wall between the two nostrils – breaks. This can be caused by dry air, a blow to the nose, or the edge of a sharp fingernail, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

There are two types of nosebleeds: anterior and posterior. Those that come from the front of the nose are anterior, and begin with a flow of blood out of one nostril. They are common in dry climates or in the winter when the air is dry and heated, which causes the nose to dehydrate.

Posterior nosebleeds are rarer and can begin high and deep within the nose, flowing down the back of the mouth and throat. These are more likely in older people, people with high blood pressure, and when people receive injuries to the nose or face. They are more severe and almost always require a visit to a physician.

Recurring nosebleeds can be caused by allergies, infections, or dryness that cause itching and picking of the nose; vigorous nose-blowing that ruptures blood vessels; clotting disorders; anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant drugs; fractures of the nose or base of the skull; a blood vessel growth disorder called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia; and malignant and nonmalignant tumors.

To prevent them, people should do the following:

  • Keep the nose’s lining moist by gently applying a light coating of petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment with a cotton swab three times daily
  • Use a saline nasal spray to moisten nasal membranes
  • Keep children’s fingernails short and discourage nose-picking
  • Use a humidifier to keep air from getting too dry
  • Quit smoking, since smoking dries out the nose.

If someone has a nosebleed, they should stay calm, keep their head higher than their heart, sit up, and lean forward slightly so their blood doesn’t drain down their throat. They should gently blow any clotted blood out of the nose and spray a nasal decongestant in the nose. They should pinch all the soft parts of the nose with their thumb and forefinger, and should not pack the inside of their nose with gauze or cotton. They should hold this for five minutes to start, and if it’s still bleeding they should hold it again for another 10 minutes.

Sitting up is important because not only does it prevent blood from flowing down the throat, but it will help the patient determine if they have an anterior or posterior nosebleed.

To keep the nose from bleeding again, people should not pick or blow it, not strain or bend down to lift anything heavy, and keep the head higher than the heart. If it does start to bleed again, attempt to clear it of all blood clots, spray the bleeding nostril four times with a decongestant spray, and repeat the steps used for an anterior nosebleed.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 30 minutes, or if the nosebleed was caused by an injury to the head, the patient should call a doctor. A doctor should also be consulted if they have frequent nosebleeds.

If you or your family has any problems with nosebleeds, you can see one of our Otolaryngologists at one of these offices: SouthPark, Albemarle, Belmont, Blakeney, Concord, Fort Mill, Huntersville, Lancaster, Matthews, Monroe, Mooresville, Pineville, Rock Hill, Salisbury, Steele Creek, and University.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician.


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