In rare cases, when the bleeding comes from deeper within your nose (a posterior nosebleed), it can be life-threatening or even fatal. Atherosclerosis, blood clotting disorders, nasal surgery, or a severe blow to the head can all be triggers.1 Unlike an anterior or frontal nosebleed which can be stemmed quickly with some simple measures, posterior nosebleeds may be severe and will require a doctor’s intervention.
Blood oozing from your nose is the stuff of nightmares and can psyche anyone out. But a nosebleed or epistaxis isn’t always the villain it’s cut out to be and can be quite common, especially in children. So what’s the source of all that blood dripping out? The inside of your nose is home to moist, delicate tissue with a substantial network of tiny blood vessels. These can get damaged easily and bleed – often heavily – even with mild injuries, say when you blow or pick your nose too hard or manage to nick the flesh inside. Polyps, ulceration, or inflammation in the nose can also cause nosebleeds, so can exposure to chemical irritants like ammonia, gasoline, or even secondhand smoke. Dry weather that leaves the inside of your nose dry and cracked can also be a trigger. Most of these nosebleeds occur in the front of the nose, in the nasal septum or wall between the two sides of the nose specifically. These cases of anterior nosebleeds are harmless and can be handled quickly right at home. Here’s how you can go about it:
1. Avoid Lying Down Or Leaning Back
It’s a natural instinct to lean back when you get a nosebleed to stop the blood from coming out your nose. Some people may even have a little lie-down. However, leaning back or lying down can make the blood go down your throat and cause you to vomit. It’s best to lean forward slightly and sit or stand.2
2. Pinch Your Nose
Pinching your nose is a simple and effective way of tackling your nosebleed. Here’s what you should do:
- Sit down and squeeze your nostrils shut by pinching the soft part of your nose, right above the nostrils, with your finger and thumb. Keep your nostrils closed for 10 minutes to allow for the bleeding to stop. Breathe through your mouth while you do this.
- Lean forward while you pinch your nose so that you don’t swallow blood. But be sure to keep your head at a higher level than your heart. Sit down and gently squeeze the soft portion of the nose between your thumb and finger (so that the nostrils are closed) for a full 10 minutes.3 In most cases, this simple step is sufficient to stop a nosebleed.
3. Apply A Cold Compress To The Bridge Of The Nose
Applying an ice pack or cold cloth on the bridge of your nose can also help stem a nosebleed. A cold compress works by constricting blood vessels and, thereby, slows down blood flow.4 You can apply the compress as you’re pinching your nose so that they can work in tandem.5
Some people suggest applying a cold compress to the nape of the neck as well. But while theoretically, this can also constrict blood vessels in your nose, studies don’t indicate that it might be of much help.6 You could, however, give it a shot.
4. Use Witch Hazel
Witch hazel contains tannins which give it potent astringent properties. This means that it can constrict tiny blood vessels in your nose and help stop bleeding. Soak a cotton bud or swab with witch hazel and apply inside your nose to stem the bleed.7
5. Apply A Cypress Oil Compress
Cypress oil from the evergreen cypress tree has astringent as well as antiseptic properties. To stem a nosebleed, add 4 to 5 drops of this essential oil to cold water and soak a clean washcloth in it to prepare a cold compress. Wring out the excess water and use it to press your nostrils together.9
6. Try A Lemon Oil Compress
Another essential oil with bacterial properties, lemon oil may also help you deal with a nosebleed.10 Add a few drops to cold water and mix well. Then soak a clean washcloth in this solution and use it as a compress for your nose.11
7. Have Pomegranate Juice
According to ayurveda, nosebleeds are a disorder of pitta, the bodily humor that’s dominated by the element of fire. So avoiding hot and spicy foods, alcohol, smoking, and even the hot sun can help reduce the chances of nosebleeds as these aggravate pitta.12
Here’s a remedy for nosebleeds that comes from the ancient science of ayurveda – pomegranates! Ayurveda recommends drinking pomegranate juice to tackle a nosebleed. You can even put in a drop of pomegranate juice in the nose with a dropper or wipe the affected area with a cotton bud soaked in pomegranate juice. Tannins present in pomegranates make them an astringent and this could probably account for their effectiveness in stemming the bleed.13
8. Use A Humidifier
Since nosebleeds are often caused by a dry nose, it makes sense to use a humidifier in your home or workplace during winter or when the weather is dry. Setting it at about 60% is usually sufficient to prevent skin from drying out.14
Take These Precautions After The Nosebleed Stops
After your nosebleed stops you need to take a few precautions for 24 hours to allow the tissue to heal and prevent another episode. Avoid:
- Blowing or picking your nose as this may dislodge the blood clot that has formed.
- Drinking alcohol or anything hot. Alcohol thins your blood while heat can dilate your blood vessels, both of which could have you bleeding again.
- Strenuous exercises or heavy lifting as it can put pressure on blood vessels, causing bleeding to start up again.
- Pick at scabs in your nose. Scabs help prevent infection and heal the wound.15 16
Get Medical Attention If
Do seek emergency medical help if your nosebleed doesn’t stop in 20 minutes or if it developed after a serious injury.
- You are on blood-thinning medication and the bleeding doesn’t let up.
- You have symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or a pale complexion which point toward anemia.
- You get frequent nosebleeds.
- A child below the age of 2 has a nosebleed.
Your doctor may assess how serious your condition is and what’s likely to have caused it. Typically, nasal packing or cauterizing may be used to stop the nosebleed.17
|↑1, ↑17||Nosebleed. NHS Inform.|
|↑2||How to Stop a Nosebleed. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑3||Nosebleeds. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.|
|↑4||Tip for Stopping Nosebleeds: Lean Forward, Not Backward. American Family Children’s Hospital.|
|↑5||Nosebleeds. Harvard Health.|
|↑6||Teymoortash, A., A. Sesterhenn, R. Kress, N. Sapundzhiev, and J. A. Werner. “Efficacy of ice packs in the management of epistaxis.” Clinical Otolaryngology 28, no. 6 (2003): 545-547.|
|↑7||Epistaxis- Nosebleeds. University of Chicago.|
|↑8||Witch Hazel. University of Michigan.|
|↑9||Curtis, Susan, Pat Thomas, Fran Johnson. Neal’s Yard Remedies Essential Oils: Restore * Rebalance * Revitalize * Feel the Benefits * Enhance Natural Beauty * Create Blends. Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2016.|
|↑10||Prabuseenivasan, Seenivasan, Manickkam Jayakumar, and Savarimuthu Ignacimuthu. “In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 6, no. 1 (2006): 39.|
|↑11||England, Allison. Aromatherapy and massage for mother and baby. Random House, 2008.|
|↑12||Lad, Vasant. The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies. Harmony, 1999.|
|↑13||Mayuoni Kirshenbaum, Lina, Ofir Benjamin, and Ron Porat. “Sensory and nutritional attributes of pomegranate juices extracted from separated arils and pressed whole fruits.” Journal of the science of food and agriculture 96, no. 4 (2016): 1313-1318.|
|↑14||9 ways to banish dry skin. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑15||Nosebleed. National Health Service.|
|↑16||Mabey, Richard, Anne McIntyre, and Michael McIntyre. The New Age Herbalist: How to use herbs for healing, nutrition, body care, and relaxation. Simon and Schuster, 1988.|