The nose has a lot of small blood vessels inside it that can bleed if a person’s nose gets dried out, if they engage in frequent picking or blowing, or if they take a hit to the nose.
Most of the time, a single nosebleed isn’t cause for concern. However, if your nose continues to bleed after an injury, you should seek medical attention.
If you or your little one does get a nosebleed, here are some ways to stop it, plus some tips for prevention.
If you do get a nosebleed, here are five quick steps you can follow to minimize and stop the bleeding.
1. Sit upright and lean forward
It’s tempting to lean back when you have a nosebleed to keep the blood from dripping down your face. However, leaning slightly forward is the better choice.
This prevents the blood from going down your throat, which could lead to choking or vomiting. Focus on breathing through your mouth instead of your nose and try to remain calm.
2. Resist the urge to pack your nose
Some people will stick cotton pads, tissues, or even tampons up the nose in an attempt to stop bleeding. This actually can worsen bleeding because it irritates the vessels further and doesn’t provide enough pressure to stop bleeding. Instead, use a tissue or damp washcloth to catch blood as it comes out of your nose.
3. Spray a decongestant in your nose
Decongestant sprays, such as Afrin, contain medications that tighten blood vessels in the nose. This not only can relieve inflammation and congestion, it can also slow or stop bleeding. Applying three sprays to your affected nostril can help.
4. Pinch your nose
Pinching the soft, fleshy part of your nose below the nasal bones for about 10 minutes can help to compress blood vessels and stop bleeding. Don’t let up on the pressure for these 10 minutes — otherwise, the bleeding could re-start and you’ll have to start over.
5. Repeat steps for up to 15 minutes
If your nosebleed doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of pressure, try re-applying pressure for 10 more minutes. Sometimes, you can place a decongestant-soaked cotton ball into the affected nostril and compress the nostril for 10 minutes to see if the bleeding stops.
If you can’t get the bleeding to stop after 30 minutes of effort or you’re bleeding a significant amount, seek emergency medical treatment.
Once you’ve gotten the bleeding to subside, there are still some after-care tips to prevent a nosebleed from happening again.
1. Don’t pick your nose
Frequent nose picking can irritate the nasal membranes. Since you’ve just had a nosebleed, picking your nose again makes it much more likely that you’ll have another one.
2. Don’t blow your nose
It’s tempting to blow your nose to get out the dried remnants of your nosebleed. Resist the urge. Blowing your nose within 24 hours after the last nosebleed makes another one much more likely. When you do start to blow your nose again, do so in a gentle fashion.
3. Don’t bend down
Bending down, lifting heavy objects, or performing other activities that cause you to strain can trigger a nosebleed. Try to keep your activities light in the 24 to 48 hours after the nosebleed.
4. Use an ice pack
Applying a cloth-covered ice pack to your nose can help to tighten blood vessels. It can also relieve inflammation if you’ve experienced an injury. Don’t leave the ice pack on for more than 10 minutes at a time to avoid injuring your skin.
1. Keep the lining of the nose moist
Dried-out mucus membranes from inhaling dry air or other causes can further irritate the nose and lead to nosebleeds. Keeping the membranes moist with a saline spray can help. You can use this spray about every two to three hours while you’re awake.
If you don’t like sprays, you can also try nasal gels or even petroleum jelly applied gently to the nostril.
2. Trim fingernails
Long and sharp fingernails can be enemy number one to someone who’s had a nosebleed. Sometimes, you may pick your nose without really thinking about it, such as at night while you’re sleeping. If your fingernails are excessively long or sharp, you’re more likely to have a nosebleed.
3. Use a humidifier
Humidifiers add moisture to the air, helping to keep the mucus membranes from drying out. You can use one while sleeping to prevent nosebleeds. Just be sure to clean the humidifier according to the manufacturer’s instructions, as the moisture and heat in the machine can attract bacteria and mold.
4. Wear protective equipment
If you have a history of nosebleeds and play a sport, such as basketball, where you’re more likely to experience injury, consider wearing protective equipment.
Some people wear a transparent mask over their nose that helps to absorb any potential blows and reduce the likelihood for nosebleeds and nasal injuries.
An occasional nosebleed isn’t usually cause for concern. But if you have more than two nosebleeds a week or have nosebleeds that tend to last longer than 30 minutes or so, it’s time to see your doctor about it. Your primary care doctor may recommend seeing an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
A doctor will examine your nose and nasal passages to identify any unusual bleeding causes. This could include small nasal polyps, a foreign body, or excessively large blood vessels.
Doctors can use a variety of approaches to treat recurrent nosebleeds. These include:
- Cautery. This approach uses heat or chemical substances to seal up blood vessels so they stop bleeding.
- Medications. A doctor may pack the nose with medication-soaked cotton or cloths. These medications are designed to stop bleeding and encourage blood clotting so nosebleeds are less likely to occur.
- Trauma correction. If your nose is broken or there’s a foreign object, a doctor will remove the object or correct the fracture whenever possible.
Your doctor may also review your current medications to determine if there are any medications, supplements, or herbs that may be contributing to easier bleeding. Don’t stop taking any medication unless your doctor tells you.
Nosebleeds can be a nuisance, but they aren’t usually a threat to your health. If you follow preventive tips and careful treatment, chances are you can get the bleeding to stop fairly quickly. If you keep having trouble with nosebleeds, talk to your doctor.