What is a nosebleed?
A nosebleed occurs when the membranes lining the inner nose are disturbed or irritated enough to cause abnormal bleeding. The medical term for nosebleed is epistaxis. There are two types of nosebleeds: anterior and posterior. If the bleeding is near the front of the nose, it is an anterior nosebleed. Nosebleeds in children are almost always of the anterior type. Anterior nosebleeds are common in dry climates or during the winter months when the dry air parches the nasal membranes so that they crust, crack, and bleed. A posterior nosebleed occurs in the back of the nose and is more likely to occur in older people. It may be more difficult to locate the site of the damage in a posterior nosebleed than in an anterior nosebleed.
Why is the nose prone to bleeding?
The nose has many blood vessels in it to help warm and humidify the air you breathe. These vessels lie close to the surface, making them easy to injure.
First Aid for Nosebleeds
Most common nosebleeds will stop after the application of first aid by the patient.
- When your nose starts bleeding, sit up and lean forward to prevent blood from passing into your throat, which may cause choking.
- Pinch the nose firmly together between the thumb and index finger, just below the nasal bones, and hold it for 10 minutes.
- Moisten a cotton ball or pad with a decongestant nasal spray and press it against the bleeding part of the nose if possible.
- If a nosebleed does not respond to first aid or lasts more than 20 minutes, it is necessary to see an ENT specialist.
Cauterization is a procedure used to force the blood to clot (coagulate) at the site of the bleeding.
Nasal packing may be used to treat nosebleeds not responsive to cautery. Patients will receive antibiotics to prevent infection.
Surgical Treatment of Nosebleeds
While most nosebleeds stop with cautery and/or packing, severe or recurrent bleeding may require surgical treatment.
How can I help prevent a nosebleed? Some causes of nosebleeds can be prevented or managed as follows:
- When you have a nasal infection, use a saline nasal spray to keep the nose moist.
- Avoid injuring the nasal mucosa with nose-picking, rubbing, or forceful blowing.
- Keep children’s fingernails short to discourage nose picking.
- Quit smoking. Smoking dries out your nose and also irritates it.