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Nosebleeds

What are they? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What are nosebleeds?

Nosebleeds (medically known as epistaxis) are fairly common, particularly in children and mums-to-be. They almost always respond to home treatment and are rarely serious. However, in very rare cases, they can be life threatening, particularly in the elderly and other people whose blood may take longer to clot, because the blood loss is harder to stem. There are lots of tiny blood vessels inside the nose, and the lining can be sensitive. A nose may bleed because of picking (which is why children get frequent nosebleeds) or even being blown too hard. Knocks to the nose frequently result in nosebleeds. Sometimes the nasal membrane (lining) dries out because of infection or dry air conditioning, and this makes it more vulnerable to bleeding. Frequent nosebleeds can be a sign of high blood pressure, so if you get them more than weekly, make an appointment with your GP or practice nurse to have your blood pressure checked. If your GP suspects another underlying problem, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultant for tests.

What are the symptoms of Nosebleeds?

Flow of blood, whether light or heavy, from one or – less usually - both nostrils, lasting from a few seconds to 10 minutes or so.

Seek medical help if the bleeding is very heavy, you have palpitations, breathlessness, you turn pale, or you sweallow large amounts of blood that makes you vomit.

What are the treatments and remedies of Nosebleeds?

You should make sure the patient leans forwards with their head tilted downwards – not upwards, as this encourages blood to run down the back of the throat and provoke a choking episode. The most effective treatment is to pinch the soft part of the nose, just below the bridge, firmly for 10 minutes solidly. If the blood flow hasn't stemmed by then, repeat the process for a further 10 minutes. If, after 20 minutes, your nose continues to bleed or the bleeding becomes more severe, contact your GP or go to the hospital.
 
Once the bleeding has stopped, try not to blow your nose, and remain as upright as possible, without physically exerting yourself, for the next 12 hours if possible. If your child has had a nosebleed, try to encourage quieter play and rest until bedtime.
 
Petroleum jelly can soften the crust inside the nose, which is a common problem in childhood. This can help reduce the urge to pick the crust off, reducing the chance of a nosebleed.
 
If you have frequent nosebleeds and are on blood thinning medication such as warfarin, consult your doctor without delay.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net

 

Nosebleeds