What to Know About Nosebleeds
Nosebleeds, although common, can be frightening to experience but most are easily treated and can be prevented.
There are two types of nosebleeds:
- Anterior nosebleeds account for about 90% of all nosebleeds and come from the front of the nose. The most common causes for anterior nosebleeds are dry air, uncontrolled allergies, cold viruses and frequent nose picking.
- Posterior nosebleeds originate from the deepest part of the nose and typically affect older people, people with high blood pressure, or occur as a result of trauma to the nose.
Dry air, uncontrolled allergies and cold viruses can lead to nosebleeds.
“A dry climate or heated indoor environment can contribute to drying out mucus membranes, leaving crusts inside the nose that itch and then bleed when picked,” says Dr. Foy.
Treating a Nosebleed
Many people treat nosebleeds by lying on their back, pinching the bridge of the nose and applying ice, but James E. Foy, DO, an AOA board-certified pediatrician in Benicia, California, says those old practices can actually make the nosebleed last longer. Instead, Dr. Foy recommends the following steps:
- Sit upright and lean forward. When you lean back, blood travels down your throat and can be swallowed, which can irritate the stomach or cause you to choke or cough.
- Squeeze the tip of the nose, just below the bony part. This will pool the blood and help it clot.
- Continue to squeeze for five to 10 minutes. Avoid frequently checking on progress as this may delay the clotting process. If after five or 10 minutes the nose continues to bleed, hold for another five or 10 minutes.
“Once the bleeding has stopped, don’t pick or blow your nose,” says Dr. Foy. “This could remove the clot and halt the blood vessels from healing.”
While this form of treatment should take care of the majority of nosebleeds, Dr. Foy recommends seeking medical attention if a nosebleed lasts longer than 20 minutes or if there has been trauma to the face or head.
To prevent nosebleeds, Dr. Foy recommends using a humidifier in dryer months and treating known allergies with medication and topical treatments, like a moisturizing nose spray, nasal gel, or Vaseline.
If nosebleeds occur on a frequent basis (more than once a week), Dr. Foy recommends seeing a doctor to either heal the irritated blood vessels or to test for other health factors contributing to the nosebleeds.
“Though they can be alarming, nosebleeds are easy to treat with the right methods and are rarely a cause for concern,” Dr. Foy adds.