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Nosebleed Causes, Prevention and Treatment

It is very common, especially in children, to suffer from an occasional bloody nose. Nosebleeds are usually easy to treat and are not a cause for concern. However, frequent recurring nosebleeds may indicate a serious condition that requires medical attention.

nosebleed

Causes of Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds may be triggered by numerous factors; here are some of the most common:
  • Dry air: The mucosal lining of the nose is very thin, and when the air is dry, such as in the winter when indoor rooms are heated or in the summer in dry climates, the nasal mucosa can become dry and cracked.
  • Trauma: Trauma to the nose from the outside as by a blow, or from the inside by picking the nose or vigorous nose-blowing can break small vessels.
  • Decongestants: Decongestants, corticosteroids, and other allergy or cold medications can dry out nasal passages.
  • Allergies and infections: Allergies and acute or chronic sinus infections can cause inflammation of the nasal passages, which can lead to irritation. Frequently blowing the nose due to congestion can further irritate membranes.
  • Blood-thinning drugs: Certain types of blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin, heparin and warfarin (Coumarin) inhibit blood coagulation and may produce or worsen nosebleeds.

Frequent nosebleeds may be a sign of a serious medical condition. Leukemia, tumors or polyps in the nose or sinus cavity, high blood pressure, and bleeding disorders including hemophilia, von Willebrand disease, and Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome are some conditions that can produce recurring nosebleeds. If nosebleeds occur more than once a week, or if the bleeding is heavy and continues for more than a few minutes, see a medical professional.

How to Prevent and Treat Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds can be divided into two general types: anterior (front) and posterior (back). The vast majority (over 90%) of nosebleeds are anterior, with the blood coming from the nasal septum, the wall dividing the two nasal passages. Anterior nosebleeds are usually easy to stop with simple first aid. Posterior nosebleeds, which occur more often in older adults between the ages of 50 and 80, can be a more serious condition because the bleeding is from an artery at the back of the nose, and they are more likely to require medical attention.
To help prevent nosebleeds from occurring, keep air inside the house from becoming too dry by using a humidifier or placing a pot of water on low heat on the stove top, radiator or wood stove and allowing it to evaporate.

Gently apply a small amount of ointment such as petroleum jelly or a water-based moisturizer to the inside of the nose with a cotton swab to keep nasal passages from drying out. Saline nasal sprays can also be used to moisten the mucous membranes.

When a nosebleed occurs, do the following:
  • Sit up straight or lean forward slightly to prevent the blood from running back into the throat. If swallowed, blood can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Gently pinch the nose between the thumb and forefinger and hold it for at least ten minutes, or until the bleeding stops.
  • Spit out any blood that has entered the mouth.
  • Try not to irritate the nose for at least 24 hours.

For those who suffer from occasional nosebleeds due to nasal dryness, taking steps to humidify the air and moisturize the inside of the nose should help to alleviate the problem. If recurring nosebleeds persist with no apparent cause, see a medical professional.

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