How to Stop a Nosebleed

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  • Some home remedies for a nosebleed include apple cider vinegar, horseradish, wild geranium and a cold water soak
  • Some nasal sprays are said to help with minor nosebleeds, but it’s best not to use them, as they could make the bleeding and congestion worse, and they’re ill-advised for long-term use
  • It's said that 60% of people have experienced a nosebleed in their life, with children between 2 and 10 years old and adults between 50 and 80 years old being the age groups that are most prone to this ailment
  • Nosebleeds usually occur in dry climates or in cold months, when you spend most of your time indoors, where heaters are used. This is because the heat causes the nasal membranes to become dry and cracked

Although they’re fairly common, nosebleeds are rarely a cause for concern. It's said that 60% of people have experienced a nosebleed in their life, with children between 2 and 10 years old and adults between 50 and 80 years old being the age groups that are most prone to this ailment.1 But why does a nosebleed occur, and what are the most effective ways to deal with it?

What Is a Nosebleed?

Medically referred to as epistaxis,2 a nosebleed occurs when the blood vessels in the nose break. The nose is located in a very prominent but vulnerable area. Any trauma to the face, such as getting hit by a ball or a hard object, can injure the nasal passageway and cause bleeding. A nosebleed can be severe or just a minor issue,3 and can be classified under either one of two types:4,5

Anterior nosebleed (front) — This occurs when the septum, or the wall between your nose that separates the nostrils, bleeds. The septum holds a lot of blood vessels, which may break when accidentally scratched or if trauma is applied. The majority of nosebleeds begin near your nostrils, which is in the septum's lower section.

Posterior nosebleed (back) — Adults and individuals who have an injury to their face are more prone to this type of nosebleed. The bleeding comes in the back and higher portion of the nose, where there are artery branches that carry blood to the nose. This is why posterior nosebleeds are heavier and may need medical attention.

As mentioned, nosebleeds are rarely deadly. In fact, only four of the 2.4 million annual deaths in the U.S. are caused by this condition. Of those who get nosebleeds, only 10% need formal medical attention.6 However, if you are having frequent, random nosebleeds, consulting a doctor is recommended so you can pinpoint the potential cause.7

What Causes a Nosebleed?

Nosebleeds usually occur in dry climates or during cold months, when you spend most of your time indoors where heaters are used. This happens because heat causes the nasal membranes to become dry and cracked. Accidentally scratching the inside of your nose may also cause random nosebleeds, although these may stop immediately. Other causes of anterior nosebleeds include:8

  • A blunt blow to the nose or face
  • Blowing your nose too hard when you have a cold, flu or nasal allergy
  • Viral infections, which cause the nasal area to be more tender and easily irritated
  • Sinusitis
  • Having a deviated septum
  • High altitudes (the increase in altitude means a decrease in oxygen, making the air drier and thinner)
  • Medication use, such as NSAIDs or blood thinners
  • Liver disease (affects blood clotting)
  • Use of cocaine and other illegal drugs

Meanwhile, posterior nosebleeds may be triggered by these factors:9

  • Having nasal surgery
  • Leukemia and hemophilia (or other blood disorders)
  • Tumors (albeit rare)

WebMD notes that a type of genetic disease may also cause frequent random nosebleeds. This is called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), and affects the blood vessels. The primary symptom is repetitive nosebleeds that seem to appear out of nowhere, even when you’re sleeping. The nosebleeds get worse as time goes by.10 If this happens to you, consult with a doctor immediately.

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How to Stop a Nosebleed: Try This Technique

Oftentimes, a nosebleed is not a medical emergency, and there are several effective ways to address it. Here’s a basic step-by-step guide from Medicine.Net that you can easily try:11

1. Lean forward slightly, tilting your head forward as well. Do not lean back or tilt your head backward, as this will cause the blood to go back to your throat and sinuses, causing you to inhale it or triggering you to gag.

2. If any blood has collected in your throat or mouth, spit it out. You might experience vomiting, diarrhea or nausea by swallowing the blood.

3. If there are blood clots in your nose, blow them out gently. The bleeding might worsen, but you shouldn't worry, as this is expected.

4. Using your index finger and thumb, pinch the soft parts of your nose together.

5. While breathing through your mouth, firmly press your nose toward your face, compressing the pinched areas against your facial bones.

6. Hold this position for at least five minutes. If the nosebleed hasn't stopped, repeat the process until it does.

7. Sit down, making sure your head is higher than the level of your heart. Avoid lying down flat or placing your head in between your legs.

8. Apply a cold compress (ice wrapped in towel or even a bag of frozen peas) over your cheeks and nose.

Some nasal sprays are said to help with minor nosebleeds, but it’s best not to use them, as they could make the bleeding and congestion much worse. They’re also ill-advised for long-term use.12 If you’ve tried the steps above to no avail, check out these other home remedies for nosebleeds:

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) — Soak a cotton ball in ACV and place it in the affected nostril. The acid in the vinegar is said to help constrict the blood vessels.13 If you have frequent nosebleeds, make an ACV drink. Simply add 2 teaspoons of the vinegar in a glass of water and drink. Do this three times a day for at least three months.14

Horseradish — Mash a small amount of horseradish root and place it in the affected nostril.15

Wild geranium — You need the powdered form of this herb. Tilt back your head with your nostrils pinched. Afterward, sniff one-half teaspoon of the powder.16

Cold water soak — Dip your hands in cold water to cool down your body and help ease the nosebleed.17

Once the bleeding has stopped, here are a few things you should do:18

Rest for the remainder of the day, keeping your head in a 30- to 45-degree elevation.

Do not place anything in your nose and do not blow it. If you need to sneeze, keep your mouth open, where air can escape, instead of passing through your nose.

When making a bowel movement, avoid straining. Do not lift any heavy objects, either.

Avoid hot liquids for 24 hours. Stick to a diet of soft, cool foods.

How to Deal With Toddler Nosebleeds

Children between 2 and 10 years old are prone to getting nosebleeds.19 According to the website by the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids usually have at least one nosebleed during their early years. In some cases, preschoolers get them several times per week.20 It’s often because of trauma, like being hit by a ball in the face, or accidentally scratching the inside of their nose while picking it.

For a child or parent, nosebleeds can be quite alarming, especially if it’s the first time this has happened. Avoid attempting to clog up their nose with tissues or a cloth to stop the bleeding. Instead, instruct your child to sit down and then try the steps mentioned above.

Once the bleeding has stopped, it’s important for your child to sit still and relax. Do not let them play around for a while. You should keep them from blowing, rubbing or picking their nose as well.21 There are instances when nosebleeds may be a sign of a more serious medical condition. You may need to bring your child to the doctor if:22

The bleeding does not stop after several attempts of the steps above 

Your child feels nauseated, weak or has difficulty breathing

There is an injury on their face or head

Blood is seen in other parts of their body, such as the urine, stool and gums

There is an excessive amount of blood coming from their nose

Are Nosebleeds Normal During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy can be a challenging and sensitive period in a woman’s life, especially due to the sudden surge of hormones in your system. Pregnancy hormones can lead to increased blood flow and affect your membranes, causing them to swell and soften. So, if you blow your nose too hard, you may end up rupturing the membranes and causing them to bleed out.23

Nosebleeds during the second and third trimester are common,24 and they also tend to occur during winter, as dry air from the indoor heating causes the mucous membranes to dry up.25 You shouldn’t worry about them too much, though, and the steps above may help stop a nosebleed. Using saline sprays or a humidifier may also prevent dryness of your nasal passageways, helping prevent nosebleeds.26

Nosebleeds Are Rarely a Cause for Concern, but if They’re Recurring, Consider Medical Advice

A nosebleed is a common condition, but if they occur regularly, don’t ignore them. Even if you can halt the bleeding easily, it’s still best to have a checkup with your doctor if you get nosebleeds frequently. There are also cases when seeking a physician is necessary, such as if:27

Your nose has been bleeding for more than 20 minutes

There's heavy bleeding and you've already lost a lot of blood

Your finding it hard to breathe properly

You've swallowed a large amount of blood and you feel like you want to vomit

The nosebleed is caused by a serious injury, such as a car accident

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Nosebleeds

Q: Why is my nose bleeding?

A: A nosebleed occurs when the blood vessels in your nose break. This can occur due to a number of causes, such as trauma (being hit in the face or nose), accidentally scratching the inside of the nose, being at a high-altitude location or viral infections, to name a few.

Q: Can stress cause nosebleeds?

A: The jury is still out on this theory, although a study from the British Medical Journal notes that there's a link between epistaxis and high blood pressure levels, which is a common indicator of stress.28

Q: What do I do if my nose won't stop bleeding?

A: If your nose has been bleeding for more than 20 minutes and you're already feeling sick because you've lost too much blood, consult a physician immediately.

Q: Can you die from a nosebleed?

A: While mostly harmless and easily treated, some nosebleeds can be a sign of a dire medical problem. For example, it may be a symptom of internal carotid artery aneurysm, which can be very life-threatening.29 ABC News also reported an incident in which a 47-year-old British man died after he suffered a mild nosebleed that led to a blockage in his airway, causing asphyxiation.30