7 Things to Know About Nosebleeds

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Hanes, RN on January 8, 2021
  • adult male patient describing his nasal problem to a physician
    Nosebleeds: What Causes Them and How to Stop Them
    Nosebleeds (medically called “epistaxis”) can be embarrassing and messy, but fortunately they’re not usually anything serious. When your nose bleeds it might look like you’re losing a lot of blood, but that’s not usually the case. Most nosebleeds result from the rupture of a small vessel just inside the tip of the nose and can be stopped within minutes. Occasionally, a nosebleed can indicate a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention. Find out how to stop a nosebleed—and maybe prevent them entirely.
  • young girl with nosebleed and mom blotting blood with cotton ball
    1. Nosebleeds are very common.
    Almost everyone will get a nosebleed at some time during their life. Children seem more prone to nosebleeds than adults, for a variety of reasons. Children are more likely to pick their noses, for example, or to injure their nose playing a game or a sport. Because nosebleeds are so common, you shouldn’t panic if it happens to you. Just apply gentle pressure to pinch the nostrils shut for 10 minutes, and chances are good the bleeding will stop. If not, head for your local urgent care center for an evaluation.
  • young adult blowing nose with force outside in snowy conditions
    2. Nose picking can cause nosebleeds.
    The delicate tissues inside the nostrils contain many blood vessels near the surface, especially at the septum (the stiff wall of tissue that divides the nose in half). These vessels can bleed easily for a number of reasons, such as picking the nose, blowing your nose too forcefully, or sustaining a facial injury. Inhaling dry, heated air during the winter months can dry out nasal tissues and cause bleeding, too. Occasionally, an underlying medical problem like a nasal tumor or high blood pressure can cause nosebleeds that won’t stop. If you can’t stop a nosebleed, seek medical attention
  • parent's hand holding tissue up to daughter's nose
    3. Apply gentle pressure to stop a nosebleed.
    If you or a child gets a nosebleed, here’s what to do: Apply gentle pressure to pinch the nostrils shut near the tip of the nose. Lean slightly forward and breathe through your mouth naturally (don’t hyperventilate!). Hold pressure on the nostrils for at least 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, release pressure and see if the bleeding has stopped. If not, repeat the process. If the bleeding won’t stop after 20 to 30 minutes, seek medical attention.
  • nurse helps patient with nosebleed pinch her nose to stop bleeding
    4. Tilting your head back is not the right treatment.
    Some people still believe the proper way to treat a nosebleed is to pack the bleeding nostril with gauze and tilt the head back for several minutes. That’s not a good idea. First of all, when you pull the gauze out you’re likely to re-injure the blood vessel and start the bleeding all over again. Just gently pinch the nostril closed instead. Tilting the head back can cause you to swallow the blood and upset your stomach. Instead, lean slightly forward and use a tissue or washcloth to catch any blood droplets that fall from your nostril.
  • saline nasal spray or mist bottle
    5. You can take steps to prevent nosebleeds.
    You can do many things to prevent nosebleeds caused by dry air and irritation of the nasal tissues. Use saline nasal spray as needed to keep the inside of your nose well hydrated. You also can rub a little water-soluble nasal gel just inside your nostril using your fingertip or a cotton swab—but be careful not to put the gel far up in your nasal passages. Get a cool-mist humidifier for your bedroom to hydrate the air during furnace season. Taking these steps to keep your nasal passage from drying out should help reduce nosebleeds.
  • rescue worker tending to patient with head trauma
    6. There are times when a nosebleed may be more serious.
    While the vast majority of nosebleeds can safely be treated at home, you should seek emergency medical attention in certain circumstances, including: bleeding from other areas of the body, such as the gums, in addition to the nosebleed; bleeding that won’t stop after 20 to 30 minutes; nosebleeds accompanied by nose deformity due to injury, which could indicate a broken nose; or nosebleeds that occur after any sort of head trauma. As well, you should contact your doctor if you or your child experiences frequent nosebleeds or if your nosebleeds started after you began taking a new medication.
  • doctor and patient looking at MRI image of head
    7. It’s very rare, but some nosebleeds can be fatal.
    Although it’s extremely rare, certain types of nosebleeds can, in fact, be fatal. A vascular tumor in the sinuses, for example, can rupture and cause significant bleeding that leads to loss of life. Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure) likewise could cause a large vessel in the nasal cavity to rupture. Certain “blood thinning” medications like warfarin can cause uncontrolled bleeding inside the body, including from the nose. Although these situations are uncommon, they illustrate why you should seek prompt medical attention for nosebleeds that won’t stop after 20 to 30 minutes.
7 Things to Know About Nosebleeds

About The Author

As “the nurse who knows content,” Elizabeth Hanes, RN, works with national and regional healthcare systems, brands, agencies and publishers to produce all types of consumer-facing content. Formerly a perioperative and cosmetic surgery nurse, Elizabeth today uses her nursing knowledge to inform her writing on a wide variety of medical, health and wellness topics.
  1. Nosebleed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003106.htm
  2. Going with the Flow of Nosebleeds. KidsHealth from Nemours. https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/nosebleeds.html
  3. Fatakia A, Winters R, Amedee R. Epistaxis: A Common Problem. Ochsner J. 2010 Fall; 10(3): 176–178. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3096213/

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Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.