Nosebleeds: A common nuisance
I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t had a nosebleed at least once in his or her life. And yet, people rarely know the best way to treat them. Lean forward or backwards? Ice or no ice?
The mucosal lining of your nose is highly vascular, which is why it bleeds so easily—and so much.
This lining is also thin and easily broken. By far, most kids (and some adults) start nosebleeds by picking their noses—gross!
If you experience a nosebleed that is not related to a nose injury (other than picking) you should:
- Sit down, but don’t lie down. You want your head higher than your heart, or bleeding will increase.
- Lean forward so blood exits the nostrils rather than going down your throat and causing you to gag.
- Pinch the soft part of your nose, just under the bridge, and maintain pressure for at least 5 minutes. If bleeding continues after 5 minutes, pinch for another 5 minutes.
- Breathe through your mouth.
- Gently wipe blood from your nose with a warm, wet cloth.
- DO NOT pack your nose with gauze or cotton. This further irritates the mucosa.
- DO NOT apply an ice pack. There is no evidence that an ice pack on your nose or the nape of your neck helps reduce bleeding. (This was common advice in the 1950s and 1960s for bleeding following a tonsillectomy.)
- If bleeding continues more than 20 minutes, call your doctor’s office, a nurse hotline, or go to an urgent care clinic.
Nosebleeds related to injuries
Our poor noses are also prone to injury—it’s the first part of our face that comes into contact with moving balls, doors, floors, and other stationary objects. If you get a bloody nose after being hit in the face by a volleyball or someone’s elbow, or after walking into a tree while texting, you should follow the above list BUT:
- Only pinch the nose if it doesn’t cause extreme pain.
- Apply an ice pack to the nose to reduce swelling.
- Seek medical attention if the nose appears to be broken, or if the bleeding is heavy and does not stop on its own after 15 minutes. Impact injuries to the nose can break larger blood vessels in the back of the nose, and should be assessed by a physician.
Because most nosebleeds are caused by dry and thin nasal membranes, keeping your nose tissue hydrated and healthy is important.
- Use indoor humidifiers when indoor humidity is very low.
- Drink several glasses of fluids every day – alcohol and coffee don’t count – to stay hydrated.
- Avoid or limit use of antihistamines and decongestants. These are the worst over-the-counter medications for causing dry nose tissue (and dry eyes).
- Use a neti pot on a regular basis. This simple and inexpensive device gently irrigates and hydrates your nasal passages with a warm saline solution.
Oh, and don’t be a distracted walker—don’t walk and text!
Image: Wikimedia Commons