Nearly every adult has experienced a nosebleed at least once in his or her life. Common causes of nosebleeds are very cold or dry air (which dries out the nasal membranes), blowing the nose too hard and nose picking. There are also several health conditions that can cause nosebleeds.
Types of Nosebleeds
Most nosebleeds occur from blood vessels located at the front of the nose. These types of nosebleeds are called anterior nosebleeds. Anterior nosebleeds are easier to control than posterior nosebleeds, which occur from an artery in the back of the nose.
Posterior nosebleeds are less common, but primarily occur in the elderly. Posterior nosebleeds typically require hospitalization and medical attention from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
Other Causes of Nosebleeds
According to the Mayo Clinic, other causes of nosebleeds include:
- Blood thinners
- Chemical irritants
- Common cold
- Cocaine use
- Deviated septum
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Nasal polyps or tumor
- Overuse of nasal decongestant sprays
- Trauma to the nose
Nosebleeds typically occur from one nostril. If it is a heavy nosebleed, blood may flow into the other nostril and into the nasopharynx (area in the nose where the two nostrils merge), causing bleeding from both nostrils. Blood may also drip back into the throat or into the stomach, causing you to spit or vomit blood.
Controlling a minor nosebleed caused by blowing your nose too hard is as simple as refraining from more vigorous nose blowing, picking the nose and sneezing. For a heavier nosebleed, the first thing to do is not panic. While the experience can be a bit scary, nosebleeds are not life-threatening. The next thing you want to do is:
- Sit up straight and lean your head forward to keep the blood from going down the back of your mouth and causing you to swallow it. Spit out any blood that gets in your mouth.
- Pinch both of your nostrils together for 10 minutes. Breathe through your mouth.
- If the bleeding has stopped, avoid blowing your nose or sneezing for at least 24 hours to prevent further bleeding.
- If the bleeding has not stopped, pinch your nostrils again for another 10 minutes. If the bleeding still persists, go the emergency room.
Immediately go to the emergency room if your nosebleed follows any accident; this includes a fall, motor vehicle accident, a punch to the face that could have broken your nose or a head injury.