Nosebleeds are common and typically not a cause for concern. In fact, most people will experience at least one nosebleed in their lifetime. However, there are times when you should worry about a nosebleed and seek medical attention. In this blog post, we will discuss when to worry about a nosebleed and tell if it is serious.
- Nosebleeds: An Overview
- Causes of Nosebleeds
- When should you be worried about nosebleeds?
- Treatment for nosebleeds
- Nosebleed prevention
Nosebleeds: An Overview
A nosebleed may be frightening, especially if it happens to your child. While nosebleeds might occur out of nowhere, most of them aren’t significant and can typically be treated at home.
Several blood arteries run along the surface of your nose, and even the tiniest injury or irritation can cause bleeding. During a nosebleed, blood flows from one or both nostrils. It can be heavy or light and last from a few seconds to 15 minutes or more.
Causes of Nosebleeds
Don’t panic if you or your child has a nosebleed. Several things can trigger minor bleeds. For example:
- nose picking
- minor injury to the nose
- common cold, sinusitis, and allergies
- dry air
- blowing your nose too hard
- overuse of nasal decongestant sprays
- high altitudes
- chemical irritants
- blood-thinning medications
- deviated septum
However, some causes of nosebleeds are more likely to require professional treatment, and that includes:
- severe trauma, affecting the nose (nasal septum) or head
- blood-clotting disorders or any bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia
- blood-thinning medication, such as heparin
- genetic conditions, such as Von Willebrand’s disease
- extremely high blood pressure, known as a hypertensive crisis
- head and neck cancer
When should you be worried about nosebleeds?
Most adults and children will have a nosebleed at some point in their life. After a few minutes of self-care, the bleeding will usually cease. On the other hand, other instances of nosebleeds may necessitate a phone call or a trip to the emergency room.
Nosebleed on children
A nosebleed in your child is understandably frightening. However, keep in mind that nosebleeds are relatively frequent among youngsters. This isn’t to say that you should disregard every nosebleed.
You’ll see blood dripping or flowing from your child’s nose if they have a mild nosebleed. They may bleed from one or both nostrils. The bleeding can be stopped with immediate home care.
However, you should seek emergency medical care if any of the following apply:
- The nosebleed doesn’t stop after 20 minutes of direct pressure, especially if your child has an injury to their head or face. Serious injuries can affect the nose or skull.
- There’s an object stuck in your child’s nose.
- Your child has other symptoms such as dizziness, headache, tiredness, vomiting, or trouble breathing. This can indicate too much blood loss or blood dripping down their throat.
You should also consider checking in with your pediatrician if your child:
- Experiences nosebleeds often
- Has bleeding on other parts of the body, like their gums
- Has started a new medication when he experienced the nosebleed.
Nosebleed on adults
Even if you’re used to having nosebleeds as an adult, you shouldn’t ignore certain symptoms.
- Similar to a child, call your doctor if a nosebleed doesn’t stop after 20 minutes of direct pressure or if you lose a lot of blood (more than a cup).
- You should also talk with your doctor if you experience trouble breathing, gagging, or vomiting due to blood dripping down your throat.
- A serious injury to your head or face causing a nosebleed should also need medical attention.
- If you’re bleeding from other parts of your body — ears or rectum, for example, this could indicate internal bleeding, blood clots or clotting problems, or blood vessel disorders.
Both adults and children should also be examined by a doctor for repeated, frequent nosebleeds, even minor ones. This can indicate an ongoing problem within the nose, perhaps nasal growths or nasal polyps.
Treatment for nosebleeds
There are several ways to stop a nosebleed.
The easiest and most common way is to perform first aid: pinch the nose shut for about five minutes. This will help stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the artery that supplies blood to the nose. You can also try holding an ice pack against the bridge of your nose or soaking a cloth in cold water and placing it on your forehead.
If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 20 minutes of pressure, or if you have recurrent nosebleeds, seek medical attention.
If a person has a severe or recurring nosebleed, a doctor aims to stop the bleeding and use a rhinoscope to investigate the cause. What they find can help guide their treatment plan. Treatment options may include:
- Nasal packing involves inserting a gauze-like material into the nose to help stop the bleeding. The material applies constant pressure, absorbs excess blood, and encourages clot formation.
- Drops, sprays, ointments, or gels. Lubricating agents can help keep the nasal passage moist, while nasal sprays can constrict the blood vessels in the nose.
- Changing medication. A doctor may recommend this, but a person should not make any changes to their blood-thinning medicine before consulting their doctor.
- Cautery: This involves using a chemical swab or an electrical device to seal off the bleeding area.
- Surgery: If other approaches are ineffective, procedures such as tying off or blocking a blood vessel can help prevent bleeding.
If the treatments above don’t help, you may be referred to a hospital specialist such as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor for further treatment.
Additional treatments that may be used in the hospital include:
- Blood transfusions – a procedure to replace the blood you’ve lost
- Tranexamic acid – medication that can reduce bleeding by helping your blood to clot
- Packing under anesthetic – your nose is carefully packed with gauze while you are unconscious from general anesthetic
- Ligation – an operation using tiny instruments to tie off bleeding blood vessels in the back of your nose
While it may not be able to prevent all causes of nosebleeds, following these guidelines can help:
- carefully picking one’s nose
- gentle blowing
- using salt water sprays, drops, or gels to keep the nasal region clean and moist.
- using a humidifier to keep the surroundings moist, if available.
- avoiding irritants, like smoke
- avoiding allergens and knowing allergy management
- taking efforts to address conditions that necessitate the use of blood thinners
If your nose does start to bleed again, follow the first aid advice above and seek medical advice if the bleeding doesn’t stop. Seek medical care; talk to your GP if you experience nosebleeds frequently and aren’t able to prevent them. They may refer you to an ENT specialist for an assessment.