Bloody boogers form when blood mixes with mucus in the nose and the mucus dries. Boogers are usually whitish when a person is healthy, so a reddish or brownish tinge indicates the presence of blood.
The nose lining is delicate and rich in blood vessels, and even a minor nick may trigger bleeding. A ruptured blood vessel in the nose can have many causes, but common ones include picking the nose or blowing it too hard.
A person can remove boogers by gently removing them with a tissue after washing their hands. If necessary, they can use a saltwater spray to loosen them. Afterward, a person should dispose of the tissue and boogers and then wash their hands again.
In this article, we examine the causes of bloody boogers. We also discuss how to treat a nosebleed and how to prevent bloody boogers from reoccurring.
Boogers are dry pieces of mucus in the nose. In addition to lining nasal passages, mucus lines other moist surfaces of the body, including the:
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the purpose of mucus is to act as both a lubricant and a filter. As a lubricant, it provides moisture to prevent tissues from drying out, while as a filter, it offers the body protection.
When a person inhales, their nose filters out particles, including dust, allergens, and pathogens, by trapping them in mucus. This entrapment prevents them from attaching to the cells that line the surface of nasal passages.
In this way, mucus in the nose helps prevent pathogens, which are disease-causing organisms, from invading tissues in the body. It is, therefore, crucial in protecting the respiratory tract from infections.
Healthy mucus is clear, so when it dries into a booger, it appears whitish. When nasal mucus has a brownish or reddish color, this may stem from the presence of blood.
As the nose lining is delicate and contains many blood vessels, even just a minor scratch or nick can cause bleeding. Regardless of the cause, when blood mixes with mucus and dries, it forms a booger that appears bloody.
Common causes of nosebleeds and bloody boogers include:
- blowing the nose too hard
- picking the nose
- dry air
- an object in the nose
- colds and allergies
- an injury to the nose
Some health conditions may also
- high blood pressure
- blood vessel malformations
- alcohol use disorder
- diseases that involve a disorder in normal blood clotting, such as hemophilia
Additionally, the following drugs may cause nosebleeds:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil)
- blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin)
- medicines that suppress normal blood clotting, such as clopidogrel (Plavix)
- nutritional supplements, such as vitamin E or the herb ginkgo
- nasal steroid sprays, such as fluticasone (Flonase)
- illegal drugs, such as cocaine
When bloody boogers result from nosebleeds, treatment involves stopping the flow of blood. To do this, healthcare professionals may recommend taking the following steps:
- Sit down and lean forward, keeping the head tilted forward.
- Pinch the nose right above the nostrils and hold for 10–15 minutes.
- Breathe through the mouth.
- Apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the top of the nose.
If these measures do not stop the nosebleed, a person may require hospital treatment. Healthcare professionals may pack the nose with sponges or seal the bleeding blood vessel.
People can remove boogers by following these steps:
- Wash the hands with soap and water.
- Using a tissue, very gently remove the boogers.
- If the boogers are hard to remove, the use of a saline spray or mist may help.
- Dispose of the tissue and boogers.
- Wash the hands thoroughly afterward.
People can prevent bloody boogers by avoiding nosebleeds. Preventive measures include:
- sleeping with a cool-mist humidifier in a bedroom at night to prevent dryness
- avoiding behaviors that can irritate the nose, such as picking it or blowing it too hard
- quitting smoking or avoiding smoky environments
- using saltwater nose drops or spray if a doctor recommends it
Boogers with an abnormal color may be a sign of a health condition or illness. If a person notices a prolonged change in their nasal mucus or has persistent bloody boogers, they should discuss this with a doctor.
Healthcare professionals recommend that people make an appointment with a doctor if they experience a change in mucus color alongside symptoms, such as pain and difficulty breathing, for more than 10 days.
The loss of a significant amount of blood is an emergency. If at-home treatment to stop a nosebleed does not work, it is time to get immediate medical attention, particularly if a person feels faint or has shortness of breath.
Possible causes of bloody boogers include factors that trigger nosebleeds, such as colds, nose injuries, and dry air.
People can often prevent bloody boogers by protecting the nose from irritants that can trigger bleeding, using a humidifier in the bedroom to avoid dryness, and refraining from picking the nose.
Persistent bloody boogers may indicate a health condition, so people should talk with a doctor if they occur. This is especially true if there are other symptoms, such as nasal pain.