Ear, Nose & Throat

When Should I Be Alarmed About Nosebleeds?

written by Becki Andrus
When Should I Be Alarmed About Nosebleeds

Everyone gets a nosebleed occasionally, and it usually isn’t an indication of a severe health problem. Whether you’ve experienced an injury on the sports field or the nasal passages are irritated by weather conditions, the bleeding often stops within a few minutes.

But there are times when you should talk to a doctor or even head to the emergency room, depending on the severity of the situation. Here are a few things to keep in mind about the management, prevention, and medical treatments for nosebleeds:

What Causes Nosebleeds?

Inside the lining of your nose, there are many small blood vessels. Because these vessels are close to the surface, it’s easy to irritate them – which causes bleeding.

Nosebleeds can happen in the front or back portion of the nose. The most common type is an anterior nosebleed, which occurs in the front section of the nose. If the bleeding is coming from a deeper artery in the back of the nose, then it is known as a posterior nosebleed.

Two of the most common causes of regular nosebleeds include nose-picking and dry air. When the nasal membranes are dry and irritated, then there is a higher risk of infections and bleeding.

Also, consider this list of other common causes of nosebleeds:

  • Sinus and nasal infections
  • Trauma
  • Chemical irritants
  • Allergies
  • Sinusitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Allergies
  • Drug use (cocaine)
  • Deviated septum
  • An object in the nose
  • Frequent use of nasal sprays
  • Chronic sneezing or congestion

Other less common causes of nosebleeds might include nasal polyps, leukemia, alcohol use, and nasal tumors. The most effective way to determine the cause of nosebleeds is by working with your doctor for an official diagnosis.

Minor and Serious Symptoms of a Nosebleed

The symptom is evident when you have a nosebleed because blood is coming out of the nose. Typically, only one nostril is affected. If you are experiencing blood coming through both nostrils, then it could be overflow from the heavy flow in the affected nostril.

When blood backs up and drips down the throat, then you might be spitting blood. An accumulation of blood in the stomach can cause you to vomit, so try to avoid swallowing the blood.

At-Home Tips for Nosebleed Treatment

A minor nosebleed can often be treated at home, without professional medical interventions. Try the following treatment recommendations:

  • Body Position: Make sure you are sitting up and leaning forward. Remaining in an upright position helps to reduce the risk of swallowing blood, which can cause irritation in the stomach.
  • Gentle Nose Blow: Gently blow your nose into a tissue. This action can help to clear out clotted blood. Sometimes it can be helpful to spray nasal decongestant after blowing the nose.
  • Pinch the Nose: Using your index finger and thumb, pinch both sides of the nostrils (even if only one side is bleeding). Breathe through your mouth. Watch the clock and pinch for 10 – 15 minutes. Using a topical nasal decongestant, containing oxymetazoline or phenylephrine can help stop nose bleeds. 
  • Repeat as Needed: The above steps can be repeated for up to 15 minutes. Continue applying pressure and gently blowing the nose until the bleeding stops.
  • After Care: Once the bleeding stops, continue to be cautious about your actions to avoid a repeat nosebleed. For several hours, keep your head higher than the heart, don’t bend down, don’t blow your nose, and don’t pick your nose.

If these steps don’t work to stop the bleeding, then talk to a doctor for treatment.

Nosebleed Prevention

Specific at-home treatments can be used to prevent nosebleeds. If you are a person who is prone to frequent nosebleeds, then talk to your doctor about the underlying cause. Also, try these remedies to reduce the frequency of nosebleeds:

  • Moisture: The inside lining of the nose needs to stay moist. In dry weather conditions, try using a cotton swab to apply a light, thin coating of Vaseline to the inside of the nose. Another option is to use a saline nasal spray to introduce moisture in the nose.
  • Humidifier: Adding humidity in the air can also be an excellent way to counteract the effects of dry air. Use a humidifier in your bedroom each night.
  • Fingernails: Children have a higher risk of nosebleeds when their fingernails are long. Keep the nails trimmed and discourage nose-picking.

These small strategies can make a difference in reducing the severity and frequency of nosebleeds for minor nosebleed conditions. When these methods don’t help, then it’s a sign that an underlying health condition needs to be treated.

When Medical Care is Needed for Nosebleeds

It’s recommended that you seek immediate medical care in these circumstances:

  • Trauma: An impact that injures the nose could cause more profound injury. If your nose starts bleeding after a collision on the sports field or a car accident, then seek emergency help.
  • Amount of Blood: When a nosebleed produces a lot more blood than you’d usually expect, it could be a serious sign.
  • Breathing: Don’t wait to talk to a doctor if the nosebleed blocks airways or makes it hard to breathe.
  • Time: Most minor nosebleeds will stop with the right treatment and pressure. If the bleeding lasts longer than 20 minutes, then it’s a good idea to seek medical services.
  • Frequency: Frequent nosebleeds could be a sign of underlying health issues. People who often experience these symptoms should talk to their doctor for a diagnosis.
  • Dizziness: When the nosebleed is accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness or weakness, then it’s time to talk to a doctor – especially when the nosebleed is heavy.
  • Objects: If a child has a nosebleed because of an object inserted in their nose, it’s best to seek professional services to remove the item. Improper removal could cause additional injury.
  • Medication: Did your nosebleeds increase after starting a new medication? Then you might need to talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage or trying an alternative treatment.

Certain medications can cause you to bleed more than usual. For example, if you are on aspirin or blood thinners, then it might be harder to stop the bleeding on your own. Additionally, bleeding disorders can make it challenging to manage nosebleeds at home.

When a large amount of blood loss is occurring, you shouldn’t drive yourself to the hospital. Instead, ask a family member or friend to take you. Or, you can call 911 for medical assistance.

Nosebleed Treatment Options

Your Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor can offer treatment recommendations for your diagnosis. Sometimes, nasal packing is used to stop the bleeding. Or, cauterization can help if the bleeding is coming from the anterior portion of the nose.

In severe situations, such as frequent nosebleeds or serious injury, surgery might be required. Surgery is the recommended treatment if other minimally-invasive interventions aren’t effective in stopping the bleeding.

Frequent nosebleeds are not only inconvenient, but they could be a sign that you need medical care. Call a doctor if you notice that your nose is often bleeding or if you have an intense nosebleed that can’t be managed at home.

Instead of visiting a general practitioner, talk to a specialist: an ENT near the Dallas or Collin County area. Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat provides quality services for nosebleeds and other conditions. Contact us for an appointment at one of our local offices in Frisco or Plano, TX. We have an easy online form where you can request an appointment or call our office for information: (972) 596-4005.

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