Jeffrey Millstein, MD, a primary care physician at Penn Internal Medicine Woodbury Heights, discusses why we get nosebleeds and the correct way to stop them.
Ever have a nosebleed that makes it look like you just finished auditioning for the next big horror film?
Nosebleeds can be a scary sight since they often involve a fair amount of blood. The good news is that they are almost never indicative of a serious health condition.
“Nosebleeds are common in all age groups and rarely serious, although we always like to evaluate patients with frequent or severe ones," says Dr. Millstein. "Keeping the nostrils moistened with saline nasal spray is a helpful preventive measure during the dry months.”
So they aren’t serious, but why do we get them? And how do we make them stop?
Why do nosebleeds start?
There are several reasons why you might get a nosebleed, including trauma from an injury, interior deformities, or in rare cases, intranasal tumors. More common reasons include:
- Dry air that causes the lining of the nose to crack and bleed.
- Use of anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, or aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that changes the ability of the blood to clot.
- Health conditions like liver disease, kidney disease or chronic alcohol consumption that lower the blood’s ability to clot.
Have you been stopping nosebleeds the wrong way?
For many of us, we have a natural instinct to tilt our head back to stop a nosebleed. Makes sense right? We don’t want the blood running down our face onto our clothes.
The problem is, this method doesn’t really work… and can be dangerous.
When your head is tilted back, the blood runs down the back of your throat. If enough gets into your stomach, you could start feeling sick and even vomit. In rare cases, the blood could end up in your airways and lead to choking or illness
So, what's the right way to stop a nosebleed?
Sit straight up and tilt your head forward slightly. Take your thumb and forefinger and firmly pinch the soft part of your nose shut. If you have an ice pack, apply that to your nose and cheeks to constrict the blood vessels and stop the bleeding.
Continue pinching for a full 10 minutes and try not to release your fingers before the minutes are up. If your nose is still bleeding after 10 minutes, pinch for 10 more.
Once the bleeding has stopped, you can use saline or an antiseptic nasal cream. Also, try not to blow your nose for a few hours
Is there ever a time to worry about a nosebleed?
Nosebleeds are rarely a cause for concern, but it is recommended that you seek medical attention if:
- After 30 minutes, you are still unable to stop the bleeding.
- You have frequent nosebleeds.
- The blood is caused by what you believe could be a broken nose.
- You have a blood clotting disorder or are on blood thinners.
It’s also very important that you don’t drive yourself if you’re losing a lot of blood. Make sure you have someone that can take you to the doctor or hospital.