A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

My nose is bleeding – what do I do?

Mother and son nose to nose outside in winterIf you suffer from nosebleeds, especially during winter months, rest assured. They are fairly common, so the answer to “why” is literally as clear as the nose on your face.

The nose, which has lots of blood vessels, is in a vulnerable position on the face so trauma, including picking especially for kids, can cause nasal injury and bleeding. But the No. 1 culprit is dry nasal membranes.

According to Dr. William Melms, Urgent Care, Marshfield Clinic Minocqua Center, nosebleeds can occur when nasal membranes dry out and crack. This is common in dry climates or during winter when you go from cold outside air to dry and warm inside air. You’re also more prone if you take medications preventing normal blood clotting, aspirin or any anti-inflammatory medication.

People also get nosebleeds because of infection, allergic and non-allergic rhinitis, high blood pressure, blood-thinning medications and alcohol abuse. Less common causes include tumors, inherited bleeding problems and hormone changes during pregnancy.

Self-care steps

You can stop most nosebleeds yourself and here’s how:

  • Pinch all of the nose’s soft parts together between thumb and index finger.
  • Press firmly toward the face, compressing pinched parts against your face’s bones.
  • Lean forward slightly with head tilted forward.
  • Hold the nose for at least five minutes. Repeat as necessary until bleeding stops.
  • Sit quietly and keep your head higher than your heart, so don’t lay flat or put your head between your legs.
  • Apply ice, wrapped in a towel, to nose and cheeks.

If you’re concerned about bleeding again, rest with your head elevated at 30-45 degrees. Continue to keep your head higher than your heart. Don’t blow your nose or put anything in it. To sneeze, open your mouth so air will escape through the mouth and not the nose. Follow these added tips:

  • Do not strain during bowel movements.
  • Do not strain or bend down to lift anything heavy.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid hot liquids for at least 24 hours.
  • If you take blood-thinning medication talk to your physician about whether it should be continued.
  • Use moisturizing saline nasal spray throughout the day and consider applying lubricating ointment inside the nose at night.

If bleeding persists, call your doctor. In an emergency situation where there has been trauma to the face, loss of consciousness, blurry vision or is associated with a fever or headache, go to the nearest emergency department.

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