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5 Tips for Dealing with a Nosebleed

Learn what causes nosebleeds, how to treat them, and the 4 signs that may mean you need to get your nosebleed checked out.

By
Rob Lamberts, MD
4-minute read
Episode #068

If there is one thing that keeps people out of a medical profession, it’s blood. It’s all fine and good when it’s on the inside of a person, but when blood comes out to where people can see it, they duck and cover. Today’s article will cover a common means by which blood--lots of it--makes its way from the inside to the outside: nosebleeds.

Doctors call nosebleeds epistaxis. I’ve mentioned before that doctors like fancy names for things; it just sounds smarter to use a Latin or Greek word. It’s especially good at parties.

Tips for Dealing With Nosebleeds: 

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Blow your nose
  3. Use a decongestant nasal spray
  4. Hold the nose 
  5. Insert cotton and apply ice to the bridge of the nose

Let's start from the beginning.

What Are Nosebleeds?

Nosebleeds are scary because they often involve a lot of blood. The good news is that they are almost never a real threat to a person’s life. Still, it’s hard not to panic when you or your child puts out enough blood that it makes a scene reminiscent of a horror movie. Despite all that blood, only about 10% of nosebleeds are brought to the doctor or emergency room. The rest of them just scare people and necessitate the use of lots of Oxy-Clean. 

Are There Different Types of Nosebleeds?

The nose can bleed from two main sources, the front (or anterior) portion, and the back (or posterior) portion. 

Anterior nosebleeds are by far the most common, and almost always get better without much medical intervention. Posterior bleeds, on the other hand, can be quite serious; but thankfully, they are relatively rare. 

Anterior nosebleeds: Anterior nosebleeds usually originate from a bundle of blood vessels known as Kesselbach’s plexus. You can find Kesselbach’s plexus by inserting your finger into your nostril in a way that points vertically. I don’t recommend doing this in public, although I have seen many people checking Kesselbach’s plexus while stopped at a stoplight in their car. 

Posterior nosebleeds:To point out where a posterior nosebleed occurs would take very long and thin fingers. I don’t recommend trying this, as extraction of the finger requires medical procedures requiring plungers, the jaws of life, and other embarrassing interventions.

What Causes Nosebleeds?

So what causes nosebleeds? One of the most common causes is the inspection of Kesselbach’s plexus using the finger. The good news is that a simple inspection of the offending nostril by the doctor can show the fingerprints of the culprit. Other causes of nosebleeds include:

Inflammation of the mucous membranes - this is usually caused by allergies or possibly by upper respiratory infections. 

Dryness to the mucous membranes - decongestant medications and a dry environment can make the inside of the nose dry and make them prone to bleed.

Foreign substances – objects such as peas, cheerios, cocaine, or even steroid nasal sprays can make the nose bleed.

Trauma - yes, being punched in the nose can make it bleed. You probably didn’t need a doctor to tell you that one.

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Medical Disclaimer
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Rob Lamberts, MD
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