Nosebleeds can be inconvenient, unexpected and sometimes scary. They’re also a basic fact of life. But why do some people have nosebleeds more frequently than others? And when does a nosebleed require medical treatment?
What causes a bloody nose
Most nosebleeds occur when the fragile blood vessels in the soft cartilage of the nose leak. These are called anterior nosebleeds, which are most common in adults and children ages 3 to 10.
The most common cause of nosebleeds is dry air. When you live or spend time in a naturally dry climate or use a central heating system in your home, the membranes inside your nose can dry out. This causes crusting inside of the nose along with itchiness or irritation. Scratching or picking at your nose can break the blood vessels, causing your nose to bleed.
Antihistamines and decongestants can also dry out nasal membranes and lead to nosebleeds. Frequent nose blowing that comes with colds, allergies or sinus problems is also a common reason.
Other causes include:
- Nose injuries
- Cold air
- Repeated sneezing
- Allergic reactions
- Nose picking
- Large doses of aspirin
- Chemical irritants
Nosebleeds can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as upper respiratory infections, blood-clotting or bleeding disorders, high blood pressure and cancer.
How to stop a nosebleed
Nosebleeds rarely signal a serious medical problem, and most can usually be treated at home by following a few simple steps.
To stop a nosebleed:
- Use your thumb and index finger to pinch together the soft part of your nose for 10 minutes
- Lean forward slightly and breathe through your mouth
- Avoid lying down
If a nosebleed lasts longer than 20 minutes or occurs after an injury, it may be a posterior nosebleed, which occurs higher up in the nose and poses a more serious health risk. In this case, schedule an appointment online at an Immediate Clinic near you for an exam, diagnosis and treatment plan.
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