Topic Overview

Most nosebleeds occur in the front of the nose and involve only
one nostril. Some blood may drain down the back of the nose into the throat.
These nosebleeds typically are not serious, and you can generally treat them
yourself at home.

A less common but more serious type of nosebleed
starts in the back of the nose and often involves both nostrils. Large amounts
of blood may run down the back of the throat. This type of nosebleed may occur
more frequently in older adults because of health conditions they may have. You
will need treatment from a doctor to control bleeding from this type of
nosebleed.

Man pinching his nose to stop a nosebleed

Stopping a nosebleed

Follow these steps to stop a
nosebleed:

  • Sit up straight and tip your head slightly
    forward.

    Note: Do not
    tilt your head back. This may cause blood to run down the back of your throat,
    and you may swallow it. Swallowed blood can irritate your stomach and cause
    vomiting. And vomiting may make the bleeding worse or cause it to start again.
    Spit out any blood that gathers in your mouth and throat rather than swallowing
    it.
  • Use your thumb and
    forefinger to firmly pinch the soft part of your nose shut. The nose consists of a hard, bony part and a softer
    part made of cartilage. Nosebleeds usually occur in the soft part of the nose.
    Spraying the nose with a medicated nasal spray (such as Afrin) before applying
    pressure may help stop a nosebleed. You will have to
    breathe through your mouth.
  • Keep pinching for a full 10 minutes. Use a clock to time
    the 10 minutes. It can seem like a long time. Resist the urge to peek after a
    few minutes to see if your nose has stopped bleeding.
  • Check to see
    if your nose is still bleeding after 10 minutes. If it is, hold it for 10 more
    minutes. Most nosebleeds will stop after 10 to 20 minutes of direct
    pressure.
  • Put a thin layer of a saline- or water-based nasal gel, such as NasoGel, or an antiseptic nasal cream inside your nose. Do not blow your nose
    or put anything else inside your nose for at least 12 hours after the bleeding
    has stopped.
  • Rest quietly for a few hours.

Preventing nosebleeds

After you have stopped a
nosebleed, the following tips may prevent a nosebleed from happening
again:

  • Avoid forceful nose-blowing.
  • Do
    not pick your nose.
  • Avoid lifting or straining after a
    nosebleed.
  • Elevate your head on pillows while
    sleeping.
  • Put a thin layer of a saline- or water-based nasal gel, such as NasoGel, or an antiseptic nasal cream inside your nose.
  • Do not
    use aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as
    ibuprofen or naproxen for 3 to 4 days. Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol,
    may be used to relieve pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Talk to your doctor about stopping any medicines
    you are currently taking.
  • Do not use nonprescription
    antihistamines, decongestants, or medicated nasal sprays.

Nosebleeds may develop in people who have colds or
chronic hay fever symptoms (postnasal drip, sneezing, or a runny, stuffy, or
itchy nose) because nasal tissues become inflamed and irritated. Using
medicines may relieve the symptoms, leading to less inflammation and irritation
and fewer nosebleeds. But overuse of allergy medicines may lead to nosebleeds
because of their overdrying side effects. If you have a lot of nosebleeds, talk
to your doctor about the proper use of cold and allergy medicines.

If you are helping someone else stop a nosebleed, avoid touching the
other person’s blood. Use gloves, if available, or layers of fabric or a
plastic bag to protect yourself.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofApril 3, 2017