Nose Bleeds: Why They Happen and How to Stop Them

A common ailment, nose bleeds have many causes, but are easily treated with some simple home remedies.

how to stop a nose bleed

Nose bleeds typically aren't serious; they end to be more common in the winter, when indoor air is dry and irritating.

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Most nose bleeds occur on the front of the nasal septum—the tissue that separates the two sides of the nose. Other types happen higher on the septum or deeper in the nose, which makes them harder to control. However, they are rarely, if ever, life-threatening.

What Causes Nose Bleeds?

They often occur because of minor irritations or colds, although they can also happen from an injury or blunt force to the nose. They tend to be common in the winter when cold viruses are more active and indoor air is drier. Other causes include:

You should seek medical attention if your nose bleed lasts longer than 20 minutes. If you suffer from repeated nose bleeds, it may be a symptom of another disease, such as high blood pressure, or a tumor of the nose or sinuses, in which case you should see your doctor. Also, be mindful that some medications, like blood thinners, clopidogrel, or aspirin, may cause or worsen nose bleeds.

Treatment for Nose Bleeds

They often do not last long and can be treated at home.

  • Sit upright and gently squeeze the soft portion of the nose between your thumb and finger so the nostrils are closed.
  • By staying upright, you lower blood pressure in the veins of your nose, which slows bleeding. Pinching puts pressure on the nasal septum where the bleeding occurs.
  • Lean forward to avoid swallowing blood, which can irritate your stomach, and breathe through your mouth.
  • Hold this position for at least five to 10 minutes.
  • Applying cold compresses across the bridge of the nose may also help.
  • You should avoid sniffing or blowing your nose for several hours after a nose bleed.
  • If bleeding persists, a nasal spray decongestant can sometimes be used to close off small vessels and control bleeding.

How To Prevent Nose Bleeds

If you have frequent nose bleeds, especially during the winter, you also can take these steps to reduce incidents:

  • Use a vaporizer to add moisture to your home’s inside air and maintain a cool temperature.
  • Apply a nasal saline spray and/or water-soluble jelly to prevent nasal linings from drying out in the winter.

Originally posted in May 2016 and updated.

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Matthew Solan

Matthew Solan has served as executive editor of Harvard Men's Health Watch since 2016. He was previously executive editor for UCLA Health's Healthy Years and was a regular contributor to … Read More

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