Possible Causes of Blood When Blowing Your Nose, and When to See a Doctor

Medically Reviewed By Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN
Was this helpful?
12

Seeing blood on your tissue rarely signifies a major health concern. Blowing your nose too hard or often is a common cause. Still, sometimes a nosebleed can indicate a more serious condition and a medical evaluation is the safest step. The nasal cavity performs an important function. It filters the air you breathe and humidifies and warms it. Your nose also contains several small, fragile blood vessels. These vessels can start to bleed when they become irritated or slightly injured. 

Nosebleeds are relatively common occurrences that usually do not require medical attention. But how do you know when to get care?

Keep reading to learn about the potential causes and what to do when you blow your nose and blood comes out. 

Blood when blowing your nose vs. nosebleed

Young child blowing their nose into tissue
Pansfun Images/Stocksy United

When many people think of nosebleeds, they think of heavy bleeding coming from their noses. However, a nosebleed refers to any type of bleeding from the nose. So, even if your nose only bleeds when you blow your nose, it is still a nosebleed.

The medical term for a nosebleed is “epistaxis,” and it usually only impacts one nostril at a time. 

Most bleeding in the nose happens toward the front of your nose. This is known as an anterior nosebleed, and the blood exits through your nasal openings. 

If the bleeding happens toward the back of your nose, it is a posterior nosebleed. These are less common but more serious than anterior nosebleeds. These nosebleeds cause internal bleeding and heavy external bleeding. 

Common causes of bleeding when blowing your nose 

Blood from your nose is most often due to excessive dryness or physical damage to the inside of the nose, but there are other possible causes that doctors may need to rule out.

Damaged skin and blood vessels 

The skin inside your nose is more delicate than exposed skin. So, the blood vessels underneath this protective layer of skin can become easily damaged in many ways, including from:

  • picking your nose
  • putting something inside the nose
  • blowing your nose frequently or with too much force
  • experiencing inflammation due to a sinus infection or nasal congestion 
  • getting exposure to cold, dry air or inhaled drugs or chemicals

If you experience frequent nosebleeds when blowing your nose, contact your doctor. To diagnose the cause of the bleeding, your doctor will examine the inside of your nose and ask you about the conditions surrounding the bleeding. Dry nostrils may prevent blood vessels from healing properly, and they can continue to bleed. 

Deviated septum

Your nasal septum is a thin wall of bone and cartilage between your nasal cavities. A deviated septum leans more to one side of your nostrils. This can prevent moisture from entering the blocked side, which creates dryness. The dryness leads to irritated skin and blood vessels that bleed.

To diagnose a deviated septum, doctors perform a fiber-optic nasal endoscopy. This allows them to view potential blockages. 

Blood thinning medications

If you take anticoagulation medications, commonly known as blood thinners, you may experience nosebleeds as a side effect. This is because blood thinners impact your blood’s ability to clot at the injured blood vessels, so you continue to bleed. You may experience more frequent or longer bleeding after blowing your nose.

Never stop taking a blood thinner without your doctor’s permission. However, your doctor may come up with an alternative treatment plan. 

Rare causes of bleeding when blowing your nose

Although nosebleeds are not commonly due to cancer or a bleeding disorder, they are a possible cause. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, your doctor may order testing to rule out these more serious causes.

Nasal and paranasal sinus cancers

Cancers of the nasal cavity are rare. In fact, they only represent 3–5% of all head and neck cancers in the United States. However, nosebleeds are one symptom of nasal and paranasal sinus cancer. Other symptoms include: 

  • persistent nasal congestion
  • pus draining from your nose
  • postnasal drip, also known as drainage
  • a lump on your face, in your nose, or at the top of your mouth
  • swollen or watery eyes
  • frequent or persistent headaches
  • changes in your hearing

Doctors diagnose nasal cancers through imaging exams to locate the mass and then by taking a biopsyLearn more about diagnosing head and neck cancer.

Genetic and bleeding disorders

Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) is a genetic condition associated with nosebleeds. People with HHT have unusually small and extra delicate blood vessels inside their noses. Nosebleeds are the most common symptom of HHT. 

These irregular blood vessels also appear on the face, hands, and inside the mouth. These veins look like red or purple spots that fade for a moment when you touch them. Doctors diagnose this condition through genetic testing. 

Rare bleeding disorders that impact your blood’s ability to clot, such as von Willebrand disease and hemophilia, may cause prolonged nosebleeds. Doctors diagnose bleeding disorders through a blood test. 

When to see a doctor

Only about 10% of all nosebleeds are severe enough to require medical attention. Contact a doctor in the following situations: 

  • nosebleed lasts longer than 20 minutes, causing more than 1 cup of blood loss, or impacting breathing
  • child younger than 2 years old experiences a nosebleed
  • sensation of blood draining to your throat
  • continuous bleeding after taking blood thinning medication
  • frequent nosebleeds, such as more than once a week
  • a mass near your nose

Also contact a doctor if you experience symptoms of anemia, a condition that occurs when your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Symptoms include: 

Stopping a nosebleed

If you see a bit of blood when you blow your nose, it may not require any treatment. These steps may help:

  1. If there is a larger amount of blood, take a seat and grab a tissue.
  2. Firmly pinch your nose and lean forward so that the blood can exit through your nostrils.
  3. Remain in this position for at least 10–15 minutes.

If your nosebleed occurs after an injury, ice your nose and stay in an upright position. 

If you require medical attention, possible treatments to stop the bleeding include:

  • topical medications to prompt clotting
  • blood vessel closure with silver nitrate
  • nasal packing

Your doctor will also address the underlying cause of bleeding. For example, a deviated septum may require surgery. Additionally, treating the cause of nasal or sinus congestion may help reduce the need to blow your nose.

Self-care and prevention

For nosebleeds due to dryness, these at-home strategies may help:

  • Sleep with a humidifier in your room.
  • Spray sterile saline (salt water) in your nose several times a day.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Blow your nose gently.

Get more details about caring for your nose in the following articles:

Outlook for nosebleeds

Occasionally seeing some blood when you blow your nose is usually not a cause for concern. At-home remedies can correct the problem if it is due to dryness or temporary nasal congestion.

However, losing too much blood or swallowing a significant amount of blood can lead to complications like anemia and nausea.

If you continue to have nosebleeds when blowing your nose despite self-care or medical treatment, be sure to follow up with your doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Other frequently asked questions

Carissa Stephens, RN, CCRN, CPN reviewed the following questions.

Does bloody snot mean an infection?

Inflammation from a sinus infection can cause bleeding. If you have a sinus infection, your snot, or mucus, may look ​​cloudy and yellowish-green in color. However, seeing blood when you blow your nose does not necessarily mean you have a sinus infection. 

Summary

Blood when blowing your nose usually comes from damaged blood vessels in the front part of the nose. The majority of nosebleeds only require at-home care. However, severe or frequent nosebleeds that accompany other symptoms could indicate an underlying health concern. Contact a doctor in these situations.

Was this helpful?
12
Medical Reviewer: Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 27
View All Ear, Nose and Throat Articles
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.