Nose bleeds are common, but that doesn’t make them any less frightening, especially if you have never experienced one before. Fortunately, they are rarely serious, and usually respond to simple home treatment.
What Causes Nose Bleeds?
Also known as epistaxis, nose bleeds can be caused by a variety of different triggers. The nasal passages are lined with numerous blood vessels that can bleed easily when irritated. Colds and allergies are the most common culprits, as well as nasal and sinus infections, frequent sneezing, foreign objects in the nose, nose picking, physical trauma to the nose, overuse of nasal sprays or aspirin, and exposure to cold or dry air. Aspirin and blood thinners can lead to an increase in the number of bloody noses, or worsen their symptoms.
Most nose bleeds involve bleeding from one nostril only. If the bleeding is heavy enough, it can back up into the other nostril, as well. It may even drip down the throat or into the stomach, which could lead to vomiting up blood, though this happens infrequently.
Nose bleeds are characterized by where they originate. The vast majority occur in the front of the nose and are called anterior nose bleeds. A small percentage originate in the back of the nose and are labeled posterior nose bleeds. The latter are serious and require immediate hospitalization, but anterior nose bleeds (responsible for more than 90% of cases) are easily treated at home.
First, relax and sit down. Tilt your head forward while pinching your nostrils together. Hold this position for ten minutes, or until the bleeding stops. Afterwards, try to avoid blowing your nose or sniffing for a few hours to prevent a recurrence.
You can prevent nose bleeds by keeping the air moist with a humidifier, using saline nasal sprays to keep your nasal passage linings moist, and refraining from any activities that lead to trauma of the nose.