Particularly in the cold of winter and so much dry heat blasting, nosebleeds can become a worry. But they happen for many reasons and they can stop just as fast as they start.
Not surprisingly, people in cold, northern climates may be more prone to bleeds in the winter months. The nose is lined with the same type of tissue that’s on the inside of the mouth. When the air is dry, this tissue likewise dries out and can crack open and spontaneously bleed, Dr. Melissa Pynnonen, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told TODAY.
Nosebleeds can occur for other reasons, too. For example, young kids may get nosebleeds seemingly out of nowhere, but it might be because they often put their fingers in their noses, Pynnonen said. Anyone who is taking a blood thinner may find themselves more prone to bleeds, as well, and these may take longer to stop.
Fortunately, with the right steps, nosebleeds can be easily and effectively handled without leaving the comforts of home.
Preventing a nosebleed
It may be possible to prevent a nosebleed, otherwise known as a nasal hemorrhage called an epistaxis, from ever starting, Dr. Vanessa S. Rothholtz of Pacific Coast Ear Nose and Throat in Beverly Hills told TODAY. She recommends the following steps:
- As soon as the weather changes try placing a humidifier at the bedside
- Put some saline gel on a Q-tip swab and place this inside the nostrils when feeling dry
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
How to stop a nosebleed
If a nosebleed does occur, there are a host of remedies to try. Most should easily subside and the important thing is to stay calm.
“What happens is, if people are not used to getting them, it can be very upsetting because they see blood everywhere,” Rothholtz said. “So, not panicking is one of the key things because, if you panic, your blood pressure goes up and your heartrate goes up.”
This may in turn make the bleed worse than it needs to be.
Next, Rothholtz recommends gently blowing out any blood clots, leaning forward and then applying pressure to the nose, somewhat below the nasal bone, for about 10 to 20 minutes.
“The reason why we recommend not leaning back is that it’s going to drip down the back of the throat,” she said, which some people can breathe in and it can cause a coughing bout.
It’s also helpful to use nasal decongestant spray, in the side that is bleeding.
“If you use [nasal spray], it constricts blood vessels and can sometimes stop a bleed that might be a little difficult to stop just by holding pressure,” Rothholtz said.
Pynnonen said another way is to douse a cotton ball with the nasal decongestant spray and then place this into the nose if it continues to bleed after pressure has been held for a while. This can also help people who may not have the best luck in getting the spray in the nose otherwise, or in cases where the blood is just coming out too quickly.
However, children under age 6 should not be given nasal decongestant sprays without speaking to a pediatrician, she said.
The correct pinching technique is also important.
“The place where you need to pinch your nose is way down low,” Pynnonen said, adding that almost always she finds the blood is coming from the very front of the nose where the soft tissue is located.
Use a clock to time exactly how long the pressure is being applied, she added. Otherwise, it’s tempting to continuously check every few seconds to see if the bleeding has stopped.
Gauge the seriousness of the nosebleed by where the blood is flowing from and how much of it is coming out. It can help to keep a small towel on the lap to spit out blood, as well.
“I ask people what they’re doing to collect the blood – are you using Kleenex or bath towels?” she said.
If someone needs to use a bath towel, there’s way too much blood being lost and it’s important to call 911. Likewise, if there’s as much blood coming out of the mouth as the nose.
If a nosebleed lasts more than around 20 minutes or if there’s more than one in a day – as well as anyone with issues like high blood pressure or cardiac problems or trouble breathing through the nose, Rothholtz said it’s time to call a doctor.
“It’s always better to go in and seek help as opposed to putting this off,” she said.
To prevent the nosebleed from recurring right away, Rothholtz recommends avoiding forceful blowing of the nose, lifting anything heavy, straining in the bathroom, drinking hot liquids or even taking a hot shower.