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Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds are usually harmless and easily controlled, but they can look scary. Try not to worry — most nosebleeds are easy to stop.

How Can I Stop a Nosebleed?

Try these simple tips to stop a nosebleed:

  • Get some tissues or a damp cloth to catch the blood.
  • Sit up or stand.
  • Tilt your head forward and pinch your nostrils together just below the bony center part of your nose. Applying pressure helps stop the blood flow and the nosebleed will usually stop with 10 minutes of steady pressure. Don't stop applying pressure to keep checking if the bleeding has stopped.

If you get a nosebleed, don't blow your nose. This can cause more bleeding. Also, don't tilt your head back. This common practice will cause blood to run into your throat. This can make you cough or choke, and if you swallow a lot of blood, you might vomit.

If you've tried the steps above twice and the bleeding continues after the second attempt, you'll need to see your school nurse or a doctor.

After you've stopped the initial nosebleed, don't lift heavy objects or do other activities that cause you to strain, and try not to blow your nose for 24 hours.

Now that your nosebleed is over, let's take a look at what a nosebleed is and what can cause it.

Different Kinds of Nosebleeds

The most common kind of nosebleed is an anterior nosebleed, which comes from the front of the nose. Capillaries, or very small blood vessels, that are inside the nose may break and bleed, causing this type of nosebleed.

Another kind of nosebleed is a posterior nosebleed, which comes from the deepest part of the nose. Blood from a posterior nosebleed flows down the back of the throat even if the person is sitting or standing. Teens rarely have posterior nosebleeds. They're more common in older people, people who have high blood pressure, and people who have had nose or face injuries.

What Causes Nosebleeds?

The most common cause of anterior nosebleeds is dry air. A dry climate or heated indoor air irritates and dries out nasal membranes, causing crusts that may itch and then bleed when scratched or picked. Colds may also irritate the lining of the nose. Bleeding may happen after repeated nose-blowing. When you combine a cold with dry winter air, you have the perfect formula for nosebleeds.

Allergies can also cause problems, and a doctor may prescribe medicine such as antihistamines or decongestants to control an itchy, runny, or stuffy nose. The medicine can also dry out the nasal membranes and contribute to nosebleeds.

An injury to the nose may cause bleeding and isn't usually cause for alarm. If you ever have a facial injury, use the tips outlined earlier to stop the nosebleed. If you can't stop the bleeding after 10 minutes or you are concerned about other facial injuries, see a medical professional right away.

Nosebleeds are rarely cause for alarm, but frequent nosebleeds might indicate a more serious problem. If you get nosebleeds more than once a week, you should see your doctor. Most cases of frequent nosebleeds are easily treated. Sometimes tiny blood vessels inside the nose become irritated and don't heal. This happens more frequently in teens who have ongoing allergies or frequent colds. A doctor may have a solution if you have this problem.

If your doctor rules out a sinus infection, allergies, or irritated blood vessels, he or she may order other tests to see why you're getting frequent nosebleeds. Rarely, a bleeding disorder or abnormally formed blood vessels could be a possibility.

Cocaine (or other drugs that are snorted through the nose) can also cause nosebleeds. If you suspect a friend is using cocaine, try talking about it and get help from a trusted adult.

Can I Prevent Nosebleeds?

  • When you blow your nose (especially when you have a cold), do so gently into a soft tissue. Don't blow forcefully or pick your nose.
  • Your doctor may recommend a cool-mist humidifier to moisten your indoor air.
  • Keep the inside of your nose moist with saline (saltwater) nasal spray or gel, or dab petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment gently around the opening of the nostrils.
  • Wear protective athletic equipment when playing sports that could cause injury to the nose.

An occasional nosebleed may make you worry, but there's no need to panic — now you know what to do!

Date reviewed: September 2019