Nosebleed symptoms depend on where in the nose the bleeding begins, for example:
Anterior nosebleed—These produce blood flow from one nostril when sitting or standing. Blood may pass down the throat if you are coughing or tipping your head back.
Posterior nosebleed—These cause bleeding down the back of the mouth and throat. Blood may flow from the nostril if you lean forward.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if:
There is a lot of blood
The bleeding will not stop
The bleeding is caused by an injury
You experience frequent nosebleeds
The bleeding interferes with breathing
The bleeding happens in a child less than 2 years of age
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor may want to do certain tests, such as:
Blood tests—to check for
anemia, low blood platelets, or clotting problems
—to identify abnormalities or a mass in the nasal region
Endoscopy—to examine nasal tissues
Most anterior nosebleeds stop without medical care within 15 minutes. Posterior nosebleeds usually are more serious and need medical care. Treatment may include sealing off the blood vessel that is bleeding.
Sit up and lean forward.
Pinch the soft parts of your nose together. Hold for at least 5 minutes without releasing pressure.
Once the bleeding stops, do not pick or blow your nose.
Avoid straining, bending, or lifting.
If the bleeding starts again, reapply pressure for 10 minutes.
For an anterior nosebleed, your doctor will use a compress soaked in a medication. The medication constricts or shrinks the blood vessel and reduces the pain. Pressure will be applied by pinching the nostrils together. Your doctor may pack the area with gauze. In more severe cases, your doctor may cauterize (seal off) a blood vessel that does not clot on its own.
A posterior nosebleed may require packing the nostril or inserting and inflating a special balloon that applies pressure to the area. If all medical attempts to control bleeding fail, surgery may be needed.
To help reduce your chances of a nosebleed:
Lubricate dry nasal passages near the front of the nose. Place a small dab of lubricating cream or ointment on your fingertip. Apply the lubricant to the inside of the nose. You may do this at bedtime or up to 3 times during the day. Polysporin and petroleum jelly are examples of lubricants that may be used.
Use a saline nasal spray. These help keep nasal passages moist. Be sure that the nose spray does not contain medications, such as phenylephrine or oxymetazoline. These types of medications should be used for only a few consecutive days.
Do not pick your nose. Cut children's fingernails short to discourage picking.
Nosebleeds. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/nosebleeds. Updated December 3, 2010. Accessed September 29, 2017.
Nosebleeds. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/nosebleeds. Updated April 2014. Accessed September 29, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013
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