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Preventing and Treating Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds are a common issue we deal with as otolaryngologist, especially during the dry winter months. The dry, colder air as well as the heat from heaters can cause small cracks in the lining of the nasal septum resulting in a nose bleed. Because the nose is rich in small blood vessels close to the surface it doesn’t take much for a nosebleed to get started.

However, as unnerving as a nosebleed may be to witness, they are usually very easily treatable.

Preventing a Nosebleed

Before discussing ways to stop a nosebleed, it is important to talk about techniques to help prevent them in the first place. Aside from trauma to the nose (which includes nose picking), the most common reason for a spontaneous nosebleed is a very dry nasal cavity. As such, here are a few things you can do to keep your nasal cavity well hydrated, especially during the dry winter months:

  • Nasal saline spray 2-4 times per day
  • Apply ointment/vaseline to your nostrils twice daily, especially at night
  • Avoid vigorous nose blowing or picking
  • Stopping a Nosebleed

    There are several steps you can take on your own if you begin to have a nosebleed.

    1. Sit upright and lean forward. Leaning forward drains the blood down the nose rather than into the throat, where it can be swallowed and cause nausea and/or vomiting.
    2. Pinch the nostrils together. Be sure to pinch the soft cartilage of the nose and not the hard bone near the top of the nose. This will apply pressure to the nasal septum that divides the two nasal cavities and is almost always the source of bleeding.
    3. Continue pinching for about 10 minutes. Use a watch if necessary, but maintain pressure for 10 minutes and do not stop pinching to check if the bleeding has stopped. If you are on any blood thinners, including aspirin, coumadin, plavix, or xarelto, you should maintain this direct pressure for at least 20 minutes, instead of 10.
    4. It is preferable not to pack the nose with tissue or gauze as removing the tissue may rip out the clot that has formed and cause bleeding to start again.

    If bleeding persists for 20 minutes or more, however, professional medical help is necessary. The nosebleed could be a sign of more serious health problems, like high blood pressure, or the result of blood thinners, like aspirin, warfarin or heparin.

    Call our office today for more information. We look forward to caring for you.

    By: Abbas Anwar, MD