Nosebleeds are common. Most people have suffered from a nosebleed once or twice in their life. Most of the time it only lasts a few minutes and then it stops. It can be scary, but they usually aren’t a serious medical problem. The medical term for a nose bleed is epistaxis.
The nose has many blood vessels that are located close to the surface. They are fragile and can bleed easily. Nose bleeds are common in adults and children between the ages of 3 and 10.
There are 2 different kinds of nose bleeds. There is an anterior nosebleed that happens when the blood vessels in the front of the nose bleed.
The second type of nosebleed is a posterior nosebleed which occurs in the back or deeper part of the nose. When this happens, the blood flows down the throat and can be dangerous.
Common Causes of Nosebleeds
- Injury to the nose.
- Breathing cold or dry air.
- Picking the nose.
- A foreign object stuck in the nose
- Blood-thinning medication
- Chemical irritants
- Common cold
- Frequent sneezing
- Deviated septum
- Large doses of aspirin
- Upper respiratory infection
- High blood pressure
- Bleeding disorders
- Blood clotting issues
- Clotting disorders
Most nosebleeds don’t require medical assistance, but if it lasts longer than 20 minutes and is uncontrollable it may need urgent medical attention.
Diagnosing a nosebleed
If visiting a doctor for this issue, a physical examination including nasal endoscopy (looking with a scope in the nose) will be performed to determine the cause. They will check for foreign objects, masses, large blood vessels and ask questions about medical history and current medications.
Make sure to tell your Dr. about any other symptoms or injuries you have experienced recently.
Tests to Diagnose a Nosebleed
- CBC or complete blood count – A blood test to check for blood disorders.
- PTT or Partial thromboplastin – a blood test to see how long it takes for your blood to clot.
- Nasal Endoscopy
- CT Scan
How to Stop the Bleeding
- Stay calm. Being anxious can make it bleed more. Just relax.
- Sit up. Keep your head above your heart.
- Do not lay down. It causes you to swallow blood and can upset your stomach.
- Lean forward and tuck your chin to keep the blood from draining down the throat.
- Gently blow your nose and get any clotted blood out of the nose and spray with a nasal decongestant such as Afrin.
- Pinch your nose closed with your thumb and index finger for 5 to 10 minutes. This puts pressure on the nose and can make the blood stop flowing.
- Also, a cold compress over the bridge of the nose may help.
After it stops, do not touch it. It may cause the nose to start bleeding again. If the bleeding continues, seek medical care. Treatment by a medical professional may be needed to cauterize the blood vessel or nasal packing may be needed.
How to prevent nosebleeds
We cannot always prevent this from happening, but there are steps that you can do to help prevent them.
- Use a humidifier. In Colorado, the air is very dry and can cause the nasal passages to dry out.
- Keep the inside of your nose moist with a saline spray or gel.
- Do not overdo it with antihistamines or decongestants. They can dry out the nose.
- Limit aspirin which causes thinning of the blood and could contribute to the issue.
- Do not smoke. It irritates the inside of your nose and dries it out.
Nosebleeds are common and they aren’t usually serious. Most can be treated from home. But remember that a posterior nosebleed can be more serious.
If frequent nosebleeds are a problem, get medical advice and contact Colorado ENT (ears, nose, and throat doctor) to see one of our otolaryngologists and to get your nose bleeds under control once and for all.