Known in medical jargon as “epistaxis,” nosebleeds are a common feature of many people’s childhood and are an extremely common minor medical issue. While they are rarer among adults, they are not usually an indication of something serious. However, there are times in which a bleeding nose may be a symptom of a more pressing medical problem.
Types of Nosebleeds
The most common type of nosebleed is the one that everyone is familiar with. Anterior nosebleeds cause blood to drain out of the nostrils.
A posterior nosebleed is one in which the blood naturally drains backwards toward the back of the throat. These are less common and more likely to be serious.
How to Stop a Nosebleed
It can be difficult to stop a bloody nose due to the inability to apply pressure directly to the open wound. Here are a few tips for how to stop a bloody nose.
1. Sit Upright
Do not lay down or put your head between your legs. It is necessary to keep the head higher than the heart. This keeps excess blood from being pushed into the head.
2. Hold the Nose Shut
Firmly pinch the nostrils shut to prevent blood drainage.
3. Lean the Head Forward
Do not lean the head backwards, which drains the blood into the stomach. Too much blood in the stomach may produce nausea and vomiting. Leaning the head forward will allow any blood to collect in a pinched nose and form a clot.
4. Check After 5 Minutes
Allow the nostrils to open after 5 minutes to check if the nosebleed has clotted. If it continues, hold the nose shut for an additional 5 minutes. Continue repeating this process as necessary.
5. Seek Medical Attention for a Long Nosebleed
WebMD recommends that if the bleeding lasts for 20 minutes or longer, then they should be taken to the hospital.
6. Apply Ice to the Area
Make sure to wait until the bleeding is stopped before applying ice. If the bloody nose is the result of an injury to the nose and it isn’t broken, then ice can help reduce pain. A broken nose should be seen by a doctor.
7. If the Bleeding Later Resumes, Blow Your Nose
Do not blow your nose until you are sure the interior injury to the nose is healed. However, if the nosebleed begins again, blowing your nose will be necessary to help clear out the old clots. This may temporarily make it worse, but it will reduce congestion and make room for new clots to form.
Benign Causes of Nosebleeds
The overwhelming majority of nosebleeds have a minor cause. One of the most common causes for them is simply dry air. Dry air dehydrates the soft tissues in the nasal canal, causing the tissue to crack. This can result in spontaneous nosebleeds that don’t appear to have any cause.
Naturally, one of the most common sources of bloody noses is blunt trauma to the nose. Assuming the nose isn’t broken and there are no other injuries, using the above steps to stop the nosebleed is usually sufficient.
Another common cause of nosebleeds is insertion of foreign objects into the nasal canal, including fingers. Besides the nose injuries that commonly comes with the territory of rough play, one of the biggest reasons why children more commonly get nosebleeds is because some of them tend to pick their nose. Nose picking not only can disturb the soft tissues inside the nose, but fingernails can also cut into this tissue and even into blood vessels. Parents should advise their children to not pick their nose. They can also help by making sure their children’s fingernails stay trimmed.
Inflammation in the nasal canal may also contribute to nosebleeds. Upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold, can weaken the lining of the interior nasal tissues. So can rhinitis and similar illnesses. Inflammation also causes blood to accumulate in the area.
While it is not truly benign, high blood pressure increases your risk of nosebleeds, as does consuming alcohol. Certain medications can cause your nose to bleed as a side effect.
Finally, some people just naturally have weak blood vessels in the nose or vessels close to the surface of the nasal canal.
Medically Serious Causes of Nosebleeds
Some medical conditions increase your risk of nosebleeds. This means that under certain conditions, they might be a symptom of something more serious.
Nosebleeds are a common complication from addiction to snorted drugs.
Deficiencies in either Vitamin C or Vitamin K can greatly increase your risk of nosebleeds.
They can also be caused by tumors, including cancer.
Nosebleeds can also be caused by various blood disorders. One example is hemophilia, an extremely rare condition affecting only around 20,000 people worldwide. The condition prevents blood from clotting, meaning that injuries will bleed continuously without intervention.