A nosebleed (medically called epistaxis) is usually a common and harmless experience. Very little or milder nose bleeds are generally not a serious concern— often easy to treat. Sometimes mild nose bleeds can also be scary but they stop naturally or by applying subtle pressure to the nose in the right way. Also, repetitive or severe nose bleeds can indicate an underlying medical condition and needs the medical attention of a specialist to avoid any life-threatening issues—in rare cases. But why do they happen? Let’s understand the reasons of nose bleed.
Understanding your Nose
Similar to other body parts, the nose bleeds when damaged or irritated due to many factors.
Nose bleeds can range from light to heavy—can be either anterior (from the front side of the nose) nosebleeds or posterior (from behind the nose) nosebleeds. In anterior nosebleed, the blood vessel damage is at the front side of the nose— is rarely serious. On the other hand, in posterior nosebleeds, the bleeding is at the deep backside of the nasal cavity— can be dangerous as the exact amount of blood loss can’t be assessed, and also it’s impossible to apply pressure in that area without medical assistance.
The nose is richly supplied by the blood. Mucosa, a delicate moist tissue lines the interiors of the nose that has extensive fragile blood vessels very near to the surface. Thereby, any subtle pressure or damage to this nose lining can trigger blood vessels to bleed.
Depending on the area where the tissue damage occurs and the extent of bleeding, medical attention is needed.
Who is more prone to Nose Bleeds?
Almost 6 out of 10 people experience at least one nosebleed during their life. However, the likelihood of nose bleeds is more among children and older adults whose blood may take longer to clot. Bleeding may be harder to stop for people who take medicines which can affect normal blood clotting properties. Drugs like anticoagulants (blood-thinning medications) or medications for high blood pressure and other blood-clotting disorders may cause frequent or major bleeds.
Trigger Factors/ Reasons of nose bleed
The nasal tissues or blood vessels can be damaged and bleeds due to several reasons.
Following are some of the common reasons of nose bleeds.
- Dry air (dry outside environment or heated indoor air)
- Picking or blowing nose frequently
- Trauma to the nose/head or nose injury
- Nasal surgery
- A foreign object stuck in the nose
- Medications of specific drugs (nasal sprays, topical nasal medications, anticoagulants or blood thinners, anti-inflammatory, etc.)
- Chronic anxiety
- Allergic reaction
- Repeated sneezing
- Colds and other upper respiratory tract infections (sore throat, coughing)
- Underlying medical conditions (example, high blood pressure, bleeding disorders or blood clotting disorders, sinus disorders, nose tumors, kidney disorders, etc.)
- Climatic factors (dry or cold climate)
- Dietary supplements (blood-thinning ingredients like garlic, ginger, etc.)
- Chemical irritants or exposure (cigarette smoke, sulfuric acid, ammonia, gasoline)
- Nasal deformity (deviated septum)
- Hereditary or genetic conditions (von Willebrand disease, Haemophilia A, etc.)
- Nutritional deficiency (Vitamin C, protein, calcium)
- Travels to high altitude
- Cancer (leukemia, head and neck cancer)
- Heavy alcohol use
- Illicit drugs (cocaine)
What to do at Home during Nose Bleeding
Irrespective of what triggered the nose bleed, adhere to the following first-line treatment steps:
- Sit up straight preferably with legs hanging down in the air. Don’t lie down when trying to stop a nosebleed.
- Tilt your head slightly forward.
- Pinch your nose shut using a tissue or cloth (at least 10-15 minutes before the blood flow slows or stops)
- Place an ice pack on the bridge of your nose to constrict blood vessels, if required.
- Try to relax your breathing in and out slowly through your mouth. Seek out a quiet or secluded area to calm your thoughts and emotions.
- Drink some water and get hydrated (once the blood flow slows down).
- Visit the doctor if you are unable to stop the nose bleeding. You might have a posterior nosebleed that requires doctors’ attention and treatment.
Reasons of nose bleed are many and so are the ways to Prevent Nose Bleed
Here are some of the ways to help cut down on the frequency of your nosebleeds and maybe prevent nose bleeds.
- Use an air humidifier in your surroundings to keep the air moist
- Avoid foreign objects that can trigger nose bleed
- Avoid picking nose
- Blow nose gently only if you must
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Eat a balanced diet
- Be mindful of the food ingredients that can trigger nose bleed as per your underlying medical condition
- Participate in regular cardiovascular exercise
- Limit intake of alcohol
- Consider quitting smoking to avoid smoke irritants
- Avoid breathing in irritating chemicals
- Wear headgears that protect the face to avoid face injury
- Spend time around nature
- Incorporate stress relief techniques like body scan exercise, yoga
- Use a saline spray or gel or ointment to maintain moisture in the nasal passage
- Avoid prolonged exertion or strenuous activity
- Consult your doctor before stopping any prescribed blood-thinning medication like aspirin
The Bottom Line
Nosebleeds are common—concerning— but usually aren’t an indication of a more serious health concern. Usually, most cases are anterior nosebleeds and can often be treated at home. The main symptom of a nosebleed is blood coming from the nose. These usually occur suddenly and don’t last long.
However, if you have recurrent nosebleeds, consult the doctor. There are situations in which severe nosebleeds or recurrent nosebleeds are a sign of other underlying health conditions. While the majority of nosebleeds aren’t a cause for concern, some are Nosebleeds may be more severe in people with bleeding disorders, people who take blood-thinning medications, and people who take medications through the nose.
Usually, one can easily stop them without any medical assistance. Keeping the air humidifier in the surrounding, avoiding picking nose, and using nasal sprays or gels to keep your nasal passages moist are effective ways to help prevent nosebleeds.
In the cases when you are unable to stop a nosebleed yourself, seek medical help straight away.