Nosebleeds

What causes them?

The lining inside the nose is more delicate and sensitive than the rest of your skin. It can be damaged more easily and bleed more easily from injury, irritation, dryness, or even allergies. In the winter, cold air and dryness are major factors. In the summer, heat and allergies are major factors. Sometimes nose spray medications can cause irritation and bleeding.

What is the best way to stop a nosebleed?

There are several methods used for nosebleeds, but most are not very effective. Putting a cold rag or ice pack on the nose, lip, or forehead (or anywhere else) does nothing to stop the nosebleed. Pinching the bridge of the nose, upper lip, or tip of the nose does nothing either. Tilting the head back might keep the blood from running onto the carpet, but will not stop the flow of blood, and eventually it will gush out, or be swallowed as it flows down into the throat (then the child will vomit the blood out!).

All these methods seem to work at times, since most nosebleeds will stop on their own eventually. But they all have no advantage over just doing nothing and waiting for the nosebleed to stop on its own.


Like first aid for any bleeding, you must apply direct pressure to the bleeding site.

There is one method that is highly effective, and will stop a nosebleed immediately. Use your thumb and index finger to squeeze down on the nostrils, so that firm pressure is applied to the nasal septum (the center divider between the nostrils). This puts direct pressure on the veins in the septum (99% of nosebleeds are from these veins) so that no blood can escape. The nosebleed is stopped immediately! If you continue to apply constant pressure for a few minutes, the blood that is in the veins will start to clot in response to the "injury". After a few minutes, let up and see if there is any more bleeding. If so, repeat the pressure for a few more minutes.

Once the bleeding has stopped, you can help the nose to heal by keeping a light coating of vaseline or neosporin ointment inside the nostril for a few days. Use a decongestant (by mouth) for several days if there is irritation from a cold or allergies.

When to Call the Doctor

Repeatedly getting nosebleeds could signal a more serious problem such as a bleeding disorder, blood disease, or more severe allergies. If the nasal septum pressure does not stop a nosebleed, you should call your doctor. Stuff some tissue into the nostril on the way to the doctor’s office.

It could be bleeding from too far back in the nose (a "posterior bleed") and the doctor might need to pack the nose with gauze. Sometimes a large bleeding vein might have to be cauterized.

 

© Rick Voakes 1999, Health-bytes LOGO  by Rie Cramer