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Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds, also called epistaxis, are bleeding from the nose. The condition is generally not serious and rarely needs medical intervention.

What causes a nosebleed?

There can be a number of reasons why people have a nosebleed, but the most common causes are trauma to the nose and irritation inside the nasal cavity.

The nose’s prominent location on the face and the large amount of blood vessels in the nasal cavity make the nose vulnerable to injury. A blow to the face or a bump can cause trauma to the inside of the nose, making it bleed. Irritation from nose-picking, scratching or inserting a foreign object into the inside of the nose may similarly cause the blood vessels to bleed. In other cases, an ailment such as liver disease, the use of blood-thinning medication, alcohol abuse and hot, dry weather may also induce a nosebleed.

Who is at risk of having a nosebleed?

Almost anyone can experience a nosebleed, but studies show that children 2 to 10 years old and adults 50 to 80 years old are most susceptible.

How is a nosebleed evaluated?

A doctor checking a nosebleed will first attempt to control the bleeding by pinching the nose together for five to ten minutes; he/she may also apply an ice pack to the nose and cheeks. If these conventional methods do not work, he/she may place some medication into the nostrils to numb the inside of the nose and constrict the blood vessels. Arresting or minimizing the bleeding will enable the doctor to examine the nasal cavity and determine the source of bleeding. If the doctor is unable to control the bleeding, the condition is usually diagnosed as a posterior nosebleed. In such a case, the doctor may require a blood count to check how much blood has been lost. Blood tests may also be required if the patient is taking blood-thinning medication.

How is a nosebleed treated?

Most cases of anterior nosebleed may be handled at home and without medical attention. A simple nosebleed may be controlled by pinching together the soft part of the nose using the thumb and index finger. Hold the pinch for about five to ten minutes, releasing intermittently to allow the patient to breathe. Keep the head higher than the level of the heart, but do not tilt the head or lie flat, in order to prevent the blood from trickling to the throat. If pinching doesn’t work, apply an ice pack to the nose and cheeks.

If the bleeding is persistent, bring the patient to a doctor or specialist who can administer appropriate treatment. This may include cauterizing the bleeding blood vessel in the nose, using a chemical swab or applying topical medicine that would encourage clotting of the blood vessel. The doctor may recommend a blood test to check for bleeding disorders. The doctor may also order the application of nasal packs that are made of the material Merocel and used to help compress the area of the nose where the bleeding originates. Nasal packs are left in place for 48 to 72 hours. In severe cases, the doctor may require hospitalization, surgical treatment or angiographic embolization, where the bleeding vessels in the nose are plugged up.

Can a nosebleed be prevented?

Avoiding injury to the nose, irritating the nasal cavity through picking and vigorous blowing and keeping away from a hot, dry environment will help prevent nosebleeds. Those who are prone to nosebleeds can minimize the risk of recurrence by keeping their nasal cavity moist through either the use of a humidifier in the home or by applying a lubricating ointment or solution. A saline mist nasal spray is also helpful. Also avoid taking blood-thinning medication, including aspirin and acetaminophen, unless under the supervision of a doctor.

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