Occasionally, nosebleeds happen to everyone. When they do occur, they can be frustrating and frightening. Nosebleeds can come from trauma, or in some cases, they can just happen on their own. They tend to occur more frequently in dry climates or when the air is dry, like in the winter.
Some medications can be drying and increase the occurrence of nosebleeds. Nosebleeds will occur more when nasal tissue is inflamed, such as when one has a cold or hay fever. Fortunately, most nosebleeds are nothing more than an extreme bother and will resolve on their own, or they can be easily controlled.
Action steps if a nosebleed occurs:
- Pressure is good. Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch the nose on both sides, even if only one side seems to be the source of the bleeding. By putting pressure on the source of the bleeding, your body’s natural clotting systems will work better to stop the flow of blood. You should put firm pressure on the sides of the bridge of the nose for 10 minutes. Use a timer/watch and remember, NO PEEKING. Put pressure on the area for 10 minutes straight! Also, use ice packs on the cheeks, if possible, to reduce the blood flow to the nose. While doing this, you will have to breathe through your mouth.
- Sit upright while applying pressure. It reduces the blood pressure on the vessels in the nose that are the source of the nosebleed, making it easier to resolve.
- Lean forward while applying pressure. Leaning forward will minimize any swallowing of blood that could irritate your gastrointestinal system. Irritation can lead to vomiting, which can cause the nosebleed to return. If any blood gets into your mouth, be sure to spit it out and do not swallow it.
You may repeat these steps up to three times for best results. If the bleeding does not stop after three sessions, it’s time to visit the hospital or emergency room. You should go to an emergency room immediately if the bleeding is affecting your breathing, or has occurred after any major trauma, like a motor vehicle accident, or if the bleeding is fast flowing and can’t be controlled.
After the bleeding has stopped, be sure to do these things to keep the nosebleed from recurring:
- Don’t lie down, sit up straight for at least 2-3 hours.
- Avoid leaning forward quickly.
- Don’t blow your nose.
- Don’t pick inside your nose.
- Don’t put anything inside your nose.
- Rest quietly for eight-12 hours, if possible, and use several pillows to elevate your head while sleeping.
- Do not do any moderate to heavy lifting.
- Do not do anything else that would cause you to strain.
- Use a saline nasal spray several times per day in the winter or when living in dry climates. Your doctor or pharmacist will recommend a saline nasal spray that is appropriate.
If you are having frequent nosebleeds, that is, if you are experiencing nosebleeds more than once per week, talk to your doctor. In some cases, it may require the instruction of the proper use of allergy or cold medicines or the initiation of nasal moisturizers. In other cases, a minor surgical procedure may be helpful. If you are experiencing frequent nosebleeds, talk to your doctor to determine the cause.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He received his M.D. and Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and Genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Dr. Crutchfield was recognized by Minnesota Medicine as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations.