Most people can stop nosebleeds at home with a few simple steps. However, while nosebleeds can be a common occurrence, there are cases when the bleeding may require a visit to a doctor, such as when the bleeding is not stopping or when nosebleeds are frequent.
Nosebleeds occur when delicate blood vessels in the lining of the nose break and start to bleed. In
Read on for tips on how to stop a nosebleed. We also cover when to see a doctor.
People only seek medical assistance for nosebleeds in around 6% of cases. Typically, a person can stop a nosebleed at home by following simple steps.
When treating a nosebleed, remain calm and do not panic. It may feel like a lot of blood, but a nosebleed is not usually a cause for concern.
To stop a nosebleed, follow these steps:
- Remain calm: Staying calm and sit if possible is an important first step. Stress hormones can increase blood pressure, which may worsen bleeding.
- Lean forward: Leaning slightly forward allows the blood to exit the nose and drip downward. Keep the head above the heart.
- Clear the nose: Ensure the nose is clear of any foreign objects.
- Pinch the nose: Pinch the soft portion of the nose, just below the harder cartilage, with the thumb and index finger. Continue holding the pressure for 10-15 minutes. Breathe through the mouth during this time.
- Release: Let go of the nose after 5 minutes. If the bleeding has not stopped, hold for another 5 minutes and check again. Continue this process for up to 20 minutes.
- Avoid activity: Physical exertion can increase blood pressure and worsen bleeding. Avoiding this can help nosebleeds to heal.
After a person’s nosebleed has subsided, they should avoid activities that could make it come back, such as picking or blowing the nose.
Stopping a child’s nosebleed
- they have a richer blood supply to nasal tissue
- they have a higher frequency of upper respiratory infection
- they are more prone to picking an agitating nasal tissue
Steps that a parent or caregiver can follow when a child has a nosebleed include:
- Have the child sit and lean slightly forward, allowing the blood to exit the nose. A person can catch the blood with a dark towel so it is less visible, as some children may find the sight of blood distressing.
- Find the soft, fleshy nose portion just below the cartilage and pinch it closed. Some people use special nasal compression clips. The child may tolerate the clamp better than a person holding their nose.
- Use distraction techniques, such as setting a timer, reading a book aloud, watching a television show, or singing a song while holding pressure for 5 minutes.
Things to avoid
One of the most common approaches a person may take to stop a nosebleed is trying to put something up the nose.
Although stuffing the nose with tissue or gauze may seem a good idea, this approach may worsen the nosebleed by further irritating the nasal tissues.
Also, when they remove the object, it can dislodge the clot that has formed, and the bleeding may start again.
Some people may also try to lean their head back to avoid letting the blood drain out of their nose. However, this can allow the blood to trickle down the back of their throat, which may eventually irritate the stomach. This can cause coughing or choking, particularly in children.
If a person cannot stop their nosebleed with at-home treatments, a variety of medical approaches can help. These include:
- Cauterization: A doctor can use a special device that applies heat to the bleeding vessels in the nose. The heat seals the vessels and stops the bleeding.
- Packing: Packing involves special gauze or a balloon-like device that puts pressure on the nose lining, thus stopping the bleeding.
- Silver nitrate: A chemical called silver nitrate can help seal the blood vessels and stop nasal bleeding.
- Intravenous medications: Sometimes, a doctor may give medications to reduce the chance that a person will bleed excessively. Examples include aminocaproic acid (Amicar) and tranexamic acid (Cyklokapron). Doctors tend to prescribe these to people with bleeding disorders.
- Topical hemostatic products: A doctor may apply products that reduce or eliminate excessive bleeding.
In rare and severe cases, a person may need a blood transfusion or a procedure to destroy or suture the blood vessels in the nose that are bleeding.
- nose picking
- rapid air temperature changes
- chronic cold or sinus problems
- cocaine use
- hemophilia or hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia
- injuries to the nose
- putting objects up the nose
- taking medications to thin the blood, such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or clopidogrel (Plavix)
In some instances, a nosebleed can be a symptom of high blood pressure.
Since high blood pressure does not always cause other symptoms, it is important to check blood pressure regularly and see a doctor if a nosebleed continues for a long time.
Nosebleeds can be concerning, but people can usually treat them at home. If a nosebleed does not stop after 20 minutes of home care, people should contact a doctor.
Additionally, if a person starts having frequent nosebleeds, it is best to seek help. Chronic nosebleeds can sometimes signal the presence of an underlying medical condition.
If a nosebleed does not stop after about 20 minutes of home care, a person should seek medical attention. A nosebleed that continues for this long will likely not stop without medical treatment.
Other signs a person should seek medical treatment include:
- significant trauma to the nose and face
- significant blood loss
- tasting blood
- feeling weak or dizzy
- having difficulty breathing
Nosebleeds occur when small nasal blood vessels rupture. They are not a cause for medical concern and often resolve with simple home treatments.
Doctors define nosebleeds by their point of origin. Anterior nosebleeds occur in the front portion of the nose and are most common. In contrast, posterior nosebleeds happen toward the back of the nasal cavity and are more likely to require medical attention.