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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.


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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How to Stop a Nosebleed

stop nosebleed

A bloody nose can happen at any time and if it happens frequently, they can be very annoying. But why exactly do they creep up on us? According to John P. Cunha, DO in his article "Nosebleed (Epistaxis)" on, nosebleeds can happen when the nasal membranes become dry from the winter and household heaters. Not to mention, people on blood-thinning medication are more likely to experience nosebleeds. Other factors, says Cunha, include:
  • High blood pressure;
  • Trauma, which includes picking your nose;
  • Infections.

Treating Nosebleeds at Home

Consider these pointers for safely treating a nosebleed at home.
  • Sit down and relax. Don't lean your head back — instead, lean forward. This will make your nose bleed less, positioning your head above the heart. If you lean back, this can cause your body to experience more issues, such as gagging, nausea and vomiting.
  • Squeeze the softer parts of your nose together.
  • Apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables on your nose and cheeks. But remember to wrap the cold compress in a towel.


So how can you help prevent nosebleeds from happening? Try the following:
  • Read the labels on your medication, as some are known to thin the blood. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned.
  • If you have children, maybe they tend to pick their noses. According to the article "Nosebleeds: What to do When Your Nose Bleeds" by, "Keep children's fingernails short to discourage nose picking."
  • Keep the inside of your nose moist by turning on a humidifier at night in your bedroom.
  • Smoking tends to irritate your nose, says, so really think about kicking the habit to the curb.

When to See a Doctor

Although nosebleeds can be treated at home, there are times where you will need to contact your doctor. For instance, if you feel like the bleeding is not stopping, you have the right to talk to a health care practitioner. Also, feelings of weakness can be treated by your doctor, as maybe you are feeling this way due to blood loss.

Overall, take care of yourself when a nosebleed happens. Don't tilt your head back; lean your head forward and squeeze your nose together. And don't be afraid to ask a family member or roommate to help you apply an ice pack onto your nose or cheeks. Most of all, prevention matters — use a humidifier at night and talk to your doctor if you're using blood-thinning medication.

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