Nose bleeds may be alarming, (after all, who wouldn’t wince at the sight of blood dripping from their nose?) but they’re also quite common. Technically known as epistaxis, nose bleeds usually aren’t serious and will eventually clear up on their own. Sometimes, though, nose bleeds can be a concern. Here’s when to worry—and when to relax.
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What Causes Nose Bleeds?
Your nose has many tiny, fragile blood vessels that can easily break. This usually results in a nose bleed, whether that means a few dots of blood on your tissue or a larger, messier bleed. Nose bleeds can have a number of causes, including:
- Irritation. Cold, dry air, as well as allergies, colds, and sinus problems can irritate delicate nasal passages.
- Frequent sneezing, picking at, or blowing your nose. Like the previous causes, these actions can rub against the nose, triggering a nose bleed.
- Injuries. These can include a broken nose or having an object stuck in your nose.
- Deviated septum. This physical disorder of the nose may make you more prone to nose bleeds.
- Nasal decongestant sprays. Overuse of these products increases your chances of having a bleed.
More serious causes of nose bleeds include:
- High blood pressure
- A bleeding disorder
- Use of blood thinner or anticoagulant medications such as aspirin and warfarin (Coumadin)
- Tumors of the nose or sinuses
These causes typically lead to chronic nose bleeds. If you experience repeated nose bleeds, you should contact your physician to determine the cause.
Basic Nose Bleed First Aid
Most nose bleeds will stop on their own, but some basic first-aid measures can help heal them more quickly. Try these tips at home:
- While sitting, squeeze the fleshy portion of your nose to close your nostrils. Stay in the position for 10 minutes or until bleeding ebbs.
- Learn forward. Tilting your head back may cause you to swallow blood. For this same reason, you shouldn’t lie down during a nose bleed.
- Apply ice. Hold an icepack to your nose while you wait for bleeding to stop.
- Don’t use gauze. Avoid packing your nostrils with gauze, tissue, cotton, etc.
- Give it a rest. Try to keep yourself from sniffing, sneezing, and blowing your nose for at least several hours after a nose bleed.
- Use a humidifier and saline spray to moisten nasal passages and prevent future nose bleeds.
- If bleeding persists for longer than 20 minutes following a head injury, go to the nearest Urgent Care facility or emergency room.
To learn more about treating nose bleeds and related conditions, visit the UPMC Ear, Nose, and Throat website.
About Ear Nose and Throat
The experts in the UPMC Department of Otolaryngology treat a variety of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) conditions in both children and adults. Our team includes board-certified physicians and highly skilled speech-language pathologists and audiologists. We provide both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options. Our research and clinical trials help to advance care for our patients. Find an ENT expert near you.