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10 ways to stop and prevent nosebleeds

Posted December 06, 2021 by Gary Huang, M.D.

Humidifier in action

Nosebleeds are very common and can strike at any time. While they can look scary with blood trickling out your nose, the good news is nosebleeds are rarely serious.

But you may be wondering, what is causing this messy nuisance?

There are many reasons why you could be getting nosebleeds. The most common cause is dry air. During the winter months, dry household heat and cold, dry air outside can irritate nasal membranes and trigger nosebleeds.

Other reasons for nosebleeds can include:

  • Picking your nose or blowing it too hard
  • Allergies or colds
  • Trauma to the nose, such as falling or getting hit in the nose
  • Side effects of medication, such as blood thinners
  • High altitudes where the air is thin

Most nosebleeds occur in the front of the nose, closest to the nostril openings, called anterior nosebleeds. Capillaries, or small blood vessels close to the skin’s surface just inside the nose, can break and bleed.

Posterior nosebleeds, which occur in the deepest part of the nose, are much less common and typically affect older adults. People with high blood pressure or who experienced trauma to the nose also can have a posterior nosebleed.

Ways to stop a nosebleed

Most nosebleeds do not require medical attention and can be treated at home. The next time you get a nosebleed, follow these tips to ease the flow:

  • Remain calm and breathe through your mouth. If you get nervous, it can actually cause you to bleed more.
  • Pinch your nostrils closed. Keep them closed for about 5 to 10 minutes to put pressure on the part of the nose that’s bleeding to help stop the flow.
  • Tip your head forward. Leaning forward will keep the blood from draining in your mouth. If you do get some in your mouth, spit it out instead of swallowing it. Blood in your stomach can cause vomiting.
  • Keep your head above your heart. Stand up or sit up straight, instead of lying down to avoid blood in your mouth or stomach.
  • Try nose spray. Spray a nasal decongestant, such as Afrin or Zicam, into the nostril that is bleeding. The nose spray can temporarily constrict blood vessels.

Once the bleeding has stopped, avoid blowing your nose for 24 hours. Also, don’t lift heavy objects or do any activities that will cause strain to help the nosebleed from starting again.

If the bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes, is a very heavy flow or if it follows a fall or other injury to your nose, seek medical attention.

Also, be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you’re getting more than three or four nosebleeds in a week to rule out other causes.

How to prevent a nosebleed

Nosebleeds can’t always be prevented, but you can help lower your chances of getting them by:

  • Keeping your nose moisturized. Dry nasal membranes can cause nosebleeds. To keep the inside of your nose moist, use saline spray several times a day or try putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly in your nostrils using a cotton swab before bedtime.
  • Using a humidifier. Especially during the winter months, the air in your house can be dry and irritate your nose.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking can irritate the inside of your nose and dry it out.
  • Not picking your nose, blowing or rubbing it too hard. Long, sharp fingernails can break the skin inside your nose when picking.
  • Limiting the use of cold or allergy decongestants. These medicines can dry out your nose and cause nosebleeds or make them worse.

So the next time a nosebleed pops up, there’s no need to panic. You now know what to do.

For more information or to consult a healthcare provider about frequent nosebleeds, contact Summa Health’s Ear, Nose and Throat group by calling 330.375.6917.


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.