Nosebleeds occur when a blood vessel in your nose bursts. Bloody noses are common. Around 60 percent of Americans will experience a nosebleed some time in their life. About 6 percent will require medical attention.
Although there are many reasons that your nose bleeds, the two most common causes are direct impact injury and the temperature and humidity of your environment.
- Trauma. Fractures of the nose or the base of the skull can result in a bloody nose. If you’ve had a head injury that resulted in a bloody nose, see your doctor.
- Dry air. A dry outside environment or heated indoor air can irritate and dry out nasal membranes. This can cause crusts that may itch and bleed when picked or scratched. If you catch a cold in the winter, the combination of repeated nose blowing with exposure to cold, dry air, sets the stage for nosebleeds.
Picking your nose
Blowing your nose
If you blow your nose hard, the pressure can rupture superficial blood vessels.
Topical medications and nasal sprays
Topical nasal medications, such as corticosteroids and antihistamines, can sometimes lead to nosebleeds. If you often use a nasal spray, the repeated irritation caused by the tip of the bottle could cause nosebleeds.
Certain dietary supplements can thin your blood and prolong bleeding, causing nosebleeds that are difficult to stop. These include:
If you have certain conditions such as kidney or liver disease, your blood’s ability to clot may be lower, making nosebleeds more difficult to stop.
If you have a functional nasal deformity — congenital, cosmetic surgery, or injury related — it could lead to frequent nosebleeds.
Tumors of the nose or sinuses — both malignant and nonmalignant — can lead to nosebleeds. This is more likely in older people and those who smoke.
If you ingest cocaine or other drugs by snorting it into your nose, it can cause blood vessels in your nasal passages to rupture, leading to frequent nosebleeds.
If you’re exposed to chemical irritants — such as cigarette smoke, sulfuric acid, ammonia, gasoline — at work or elsewhere, it can lead to frequent and recurring nosebleeds.
While the majority of nosebleeds aren’t a cause for concern, some are. Get medical help right away if:
- your nose doesn’t stop bleeding after 20 minutes
- your nose is bleeding as the result of a head injury
- your nose has an odd shape or feels broken after an injury
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience frequent and repeated nosebleeds that aren’t caused by minor irritation. Frequent nosebleeds that occur more than once a week may be a sign of a problem that should be evaluated.
You can help cut down on the frequency of your nosebleeds and perhaps prevent them by taking some simple actions:
- Avoid picking your nose and blow your nose gently.
- If you smoke, try to quit and avoid areas with secondhand smoke.
- Moisturize the inside of your nose with a nonprescription saline nasal spray.
- Use a humidifier during the winter months.
- Apply ointment, such as Bacitracin, A and D Ointment, Eucerin, Polysporin, or Vaseline, to the inside of each nostril at bedtime.
- Wear your seatbelt to protect from facial trauma in the event of an accident.
- Wear headgear that fits properly and protects your face when playing sports with a chance for face injury, such as karate, hockey, or lacrosse.
- Avoid breathing in irritating chemicals by using properly rated protective equipment.
If you have frequent and recurring nosebleeds, talk to your doctor about possible causes and to discuss steps you can take to avoid them.
Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist — an ear, nose, and throat specialist, also called an ENT. If you’re on a blood thinner, they might recommend adjusting the dose.