Headaches and cases of epistaxis, or nosebleeds, are common. Nosebleeds occur due to burst or broken blood vessels in the nose. Having a headache and a nosebleed can be a sign of a minor issue, such as hay fever, or something more severe, such as anemia, or a low red blood cell count.
Environmental and lifestyle factors can contribute to headaches and nosebleeds. It’s easy to rupture the small blood vessels in your nose, especially when it’s dry out. A deviated septum, or a shifted wall in your nose, is a common cause of both symptoms. Along with headaches and nosebleeds, a deviated septum can cause blockage in one or both nostrils, facial pain, and noisy breathing during sleep.
Other mild conditions that can cause headaches and nosebleeds are:
- allergic rhinitis, or hay fever
- common cold
- sinus infection
- excessive use of decongestants or nasal sprays
- dry mucus in the nose
Some serious but less common conditions that can cause headaches and nosebleeds are:
- congenital heart disease
- brain tumor
- essential thrombocythemia, or increased platelets in the blood
Visit your doctor if other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or dizziness, accompany your headaches and nosebleeds.
What causes headaches and nosebleeds in adults?
One study found that adults with migraines had significantly more nosebleeds. The findings also suggest that nosebleeds may be precursors to migraines, but more research in this area is necessary. Your body may be sending an early warning sign if your nosebleeds are frequent and accompany a severe headache.
A number of things can trigger both a headache and a nosebleed, including:
- overly dry environment
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- high blood pressure
- nose infection
- overuse of cocaine
- accidental inhalation of chemicals, such as ammonia
- side effects of drugs, such as warfarin
- head injury
You should always see a doctor after a head injury, especially if it gets progressively worse.
One study found that people with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) reported nosebleeds at the same time as migraines. HHT is a rare genetic disorder that causes multiple abnormal developments in blood vessels.
Headaches and nosebleeds are common during pregnancy, according to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. You or someone you know may find it harder to breathe during pregnancy. This is because the lining of your nose and nasal passage gets more blood. The increased amount of blood to the small vessels in your nose can cause nosebleeds.
You may experience hormonal changes, especially during the first trimester. This can also cause headaches. Call your doctor if your headaches are severe and don’t go way. This may be a sign of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure and organ damage.
Always see your doctor if the nosebleeds are excessive and your headaches don’t go away after 20 minutes.
Many children have nosebleeds from:
- picking the nose
- having poor posture
- skipping meals
- not getting enough sleep
Research also shows that children with migraines are more likely to have nosebleeds. Excessive bleeding can sometimes cause headaches. When these symptoms happen frequently and closely together, it might indicate a more serious condition, such as high blood pressure, leukemia, or anemia.
Make an appointment with their doctor if your child also shows these symptoms:
- chills, or feeling cold
- dizziness, or feeling lightheaded
- easy bruising or bleeding
Your doctor will check your child’s blood pressure and may recommend getting a complete blood count to determine the cause. This study suggests getting a brain image if your child doesn’t have a primary headache or if they have an abnormal neurological exam.
See a doctor
Call 911 or local emergency services, or go to the emergency room (ER) if you have a headache along with:
- paralysis on one side of your body
- trouble with movements, such as speaking or walking
- nausea or vomiting that aren’t flu-related
Seek medical attention immediately if your nose is:
- bleeding excessively
- bleeding for more than 20 minutes
- bleeding that’s interfering with your breathing
If your child has a nosebleed and is younger than 2 years old, you should take them to the ER.
Schedule a visit with your doctor if your nosebleed and headaches are:
- ongoing or recurring
- keeping you from participating in normal activities
- getting worse
- not improving with the use of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine
Most nosebleeds and headaches will go away on their own or with self-care.
This information is a summary of emergency situations. Contact your doctor if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency.
You may find it helpful to keep track of your symptoms before your doctor’s appointment. Your doctor may ask you these questions:
- Are you taking any new medications?
- Are you using any decongestant sprays?
- How long have you had these headaches and nosebleeds?
- What other symptoms or discomforts are you experiencing?
They may also ask about your family history to see if you have any genetic risk factors for certain conditions.
Answering these questions will also help your doctor decide which tests you may need. Some tests your doctor may order are:
- blood tests to check for blood cell count or other blood diseases
- head or chest X-rays
- ultrasound of your kidney to check for signs of chronic kidney disease
- blood pressure test
If the nosebleed doesn’t stop, your doctor will use a cauterizing or heating tool to seal off a blood vessel. This will stop your nose from bleeding and help reduce the risk of future bleeding. Other treatment for nosebleeds may include surgery to remove a foreign object or correct a deviated septum or fracture.
While OTC pain medication can reduce your headache, aspirin may contribute to further nose bleeding. Aspirin is a blood thinner. Your doctor will prescribe special medication if you experience frequent migraines.
Your doctor will also focus on treating the underlying condition first if it’s the cause of your headaches.
Treatment for headaches in children
A study of children and headaches recommends nonpharmacological approaches first, even for chronic daily headaches. These methods include:
- keeping a headache diary to identify patterns and triggers
- making sure your child eats all of their meals
- changing environmental factors, such as bright lights
- adopting healthy lifestyle factors, such as exercise and good sleeping habits
- practicing relaxation techniques
A cool room temperature can help minimize nosebleed risk. You can do the following to immediately treat your nosebleed:
- Sit up to reduce your nasal blood pressure and minimize bleeding.
- Lean forward to help prevent blood from entering your mouth.
- Pinch both nostrils shut to put pressure on your nose.
- Place cotton pads in your nose while you hold it to prevent blood from escaping.
You should hold your nostrils closed for 10 to 15 minutes when putting pressure on your nose.
Once you’ve stopped the bleeding, you can place a warm or cool compress on your head or neck to reduce the pain. Resting in a quiet, cool, and dark room can also help reduce your pain.
During dry seasons, you can use vaporizers in your home to keep the air moist. This will keep the inside of your nose from drying out, reducing your risk for nosebleeds. You may also wish to take an OTC allergy drug to prevent headache and nasal symptoms if you experience seasonal allergies.
Depending on the cause of nosebleeds, you may need to teach your child not to pick their nose. Keeping a safe space for toys and playing can help reduce their risk of sticking foreign objects in their nose.
You may be able to prevent or lessen tension and migraine headaches by taking steps to reduce stress in your life. This could mean changing your sitting posture, making time for relaxation, and identifying triggers so you can avoid them.