- You can stop a nosebleed by sitting upright, pinching just below the bony part of your nose, and holding pressure for five minutes.
- Applying an ice pack or using a nasal spray like Afrin may also help stop the bleeding.
- You should seek medical attention for a nosebleed if it is the result of an injury, if the bleeding lasts more than 30 minutes, or interferes with your breathing.
- This article was medically reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Nosebleeds are a common problem. About 60% of Americans will have a nosebleed at some point in their lives. Though nosebleeds can look scary, they usually aren’t dangerous and will clear up on their own.
In some cases, however, a nosebleed may be a sign of a serious nose injury or other medical problem. Here’s what you need to know about how to deal with a nosebleed and when you should see a doctor.
Types of nosebleeds
Nosebleeds happen when one of the small blood vessels in your nose opens up and starts to bleed. There are two types of nosebleeds: anterior and posterior.
- Anterior nosebleeds are the most common type. These nosebleeds happen when a blood vessel opens in your septum, the cartilage that separates the right and left sides of the nose. If you have a regular, anterior nosebleed, you can usually take care of it on your own at home.
- Posterior nosebleeds occur farther back in the nose and can cause blood to flow down your throat. If you’re bleeding out of both nostrils or you feel blood running down the back of your throat, this may be a sign of a more serious posterior nosebleed that may need medical treatment, says Troy Madsen, MD, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Utah.
How to stop a nosebleed
To stop an anterior nosebleed at home, Madsen suggests following these steps:
1. Sit upright and lean slightly forward to keep blood from flowing into your throat.
2. Pinch both nostrils just below the bony part of your nose, squeezing the cartilage.
3. Hold this pressure for 5 minutes while breathing through your mouth.
4. Release your nostrils and check to see if they are still bleeding.
5. If your nose is still bleeding, hold pressure for another 10 minutes.
Though not always necessary, you can place an ice pack on the bridge of your nose to help constrict blood vessels and slow the bleeding. You can also try spraying two squirts of an over-the-counter decongestant, such as Afrin, into the bleeding nostril and holding it for 15 minutes.
If the bleeding stops, avoid bending over, lifting heavy objects, and wiping or blowing your nose for the rest of the day.
What causes nosebleeds?
“The most common cause of nosebleeds that I see is dry, cold air,” Madsen says, adding that more people tend to show up in the emergency department with nosebleeds in winter, particularly when temperatures drop below freezing.
Low temperatures reduce the amount of humidity in the air, “and the nose seems particularly susceptible to this change as the dry air causes the skin to dry out and break down easily,” Madsen says.
Picking your nose can also put you at higher risk for nosebleeds, particularly in winter months, Madsen says.
Other possible causes of nosebleeds include:
Nosebleeds can occur from nose injuries as well. “In cases of injuries, I get more concerned for nasal fractures, lacerations, or large collections of blood in the nose,” Madsen says. Some of the most common causes of nose injuries include:
- Car accidents
- Playing contact sports like football
- Falling down
- Physical fights
If your nose is bleeding because of these injuries, you should seek medical help.
How to prevent a nosebleed
Nosebleeds can sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, but there are a few simple things you can do to help prevent nosebleeds, particularly as the weather changes and the humidity levels drop.
- Madsen suggests putting a small amount of petroleum jelly inside both nostrils each morning. “If you continue to have nosebleeds despite this, consider using a humidifier in your bedroom at night,” Madsen says.
- You should also avoid picking your nose, and for small children, trimming fingernails short can help prevent irritation or scratches inside the nostrils.
- Sneeze through your mouth and avoid blowing your nose forcefully to avoid bursting blood vessels.
- Quitting smoking may help prevent nosebleeds because smoking irritates and dries out the inside of your nose.
- If you play sports, always wearing the proper head equipment can help prevent nose injuries that trigger bleeding.
When to seek medical help for your nosebleeds
If these preventative measures don’t work, it may be worth visiting a doctor. You should also talk to your doctor if you get frequent nosebleeds, more than once per week.
“If you’re still getting nosebleeds, I would recommend seeing your doctor to get some blood tests done to make sure you don’t have any blood clotting disorders or issues that could make you more prone to nosebleeds,” Madsen says.
In addition, some signs that you should get medical attention while experiencing nosebleeds include:
- You get a nosebleed after an injury.
- The nosebleed happens in a child under age two.
- There is an unexpectedly large amount of blood.
- The bleeding interferes with your breathing.
- The nosebleed lasts more than 30 minutes, even while you pinch your nose.
Nosebleeds are usually harmless and are commonly caused by inhaling cold, dry air. They can also be caused by breathing in harsh chemicals, nasal or sinus infections, and high altitudes. Nosebleeds should stop after leaning forward and pinching your nose, but if your nosebleed persists after 20 minutes of pressure or you’ve lost more than a cup of blood, then you should seek medical attention.
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