Nosebleeds are fairly common, with about one in seven people experiencing them at some point in their lifetime. Most are the result of viruses or minor irritations and are easily treatable. Nosebleeds are rarely serious.
What Causes a Nosebleed?
The tissues lining the interior of the nose contain a network of blood vessels that are susceptible to bursting. This can happen as a result of dry or cold air, colds, allergies, sinus infections, injury, inserting foreign objects into the nasal cavity, scratching or picking the nose, or even blowing the nose with too much force. When the vessels rupture blood is released, causing a nosebleed (known medically as epistaxis). This is most common in children and older adults.
The majority of nosebleeds originate in the front of the nose. These are classified as anterior nosebleeds, and are rarely a cause for concern. If you experience an anterior nosebleed, stay calm and sit up straight, leaning forward slightly so you won’t inadvertently swallow any blood. Pinch your nostrils together and hold them in that position for 5-10 minutes, or until the bleeding stops.
Posterior nosebleeds occur in the back of the nose. They are rare, but because they originate higher and deeper in the nose, blood can flow down your throat, and they can be difficult to treat. Posterior nosebleeds are considered medical emergencies and require prompt attention. They affect the elderly, people with hypertension, and those who have experienced trauma to the nose or face.
Call 911 for any nosebleed that lasts longer than 30 minutes or occurs following a head injury.
How to Prevent Nosebleeds
Individuals with frequent nosebleeds can take steps to prevent them from occurring in the future. Use a humidifier to moisten the air, especially if you reside in a dry climate. You can use saline gel or saline nasal sprays to keep your nasal membranes moist. Avoid activities that promote dry and irritated nasal passages, such as smoking.