Though common and sometimes frightening, nosebleeds are rarely anything more than a nuisance. They are usually the result of minor irritations in the nasal passages and are most common in children younger than 10 or adults older than 50.
Nosebleed Causes & Categories
When the membranes lining the inside of the nose dry out and become irritated, the blood vessels break, causing a nosebleed. These are more common in the winter months, when the air is cold and dry. Other factors that may contribute to nosebleeds include colds, allergies, sinus infections, nose picking, blowing the nose too hard, frequent sneezing, overuse of nasal sprays, foreign objects in the nose and trauma to the nose.
If nosebleeds are chronic or occur frequently, they may be the result of high blood pressure, vascular diseases or a tumor.
Nosebleeds are categorized depending on where they originate in the nose. Anterior, beginning in the front of the nose, are by far the most common type, with bleeding often confined to a single nostril. Posterior nosebleeds begin high and deep within the nose and cause blood to flow down the back of the mouth and throat. They are rare but serious and require immediate medical attention.
Treating & Preventing Nosebleeds
The first step in treating a nosebleed is to remain calm. Though there may appear to be a lot of blood, it is likely not nearly as bad as it seems. Sit up and lean forward slightly, and pinch your nostrils together using your thumb and index finger. Hold this position for 5 to 10 minutes or until the bleeding has stopped. Refrain from blowing your nose and sneezing afterwards. If bleeding continues for longer than 20 minutes or has occurred because of trauma to the head or face, see a doctor right away.
If you are prone to nosebleeds, use a humidifier to moisten the air. Saline nasal sprays and petroleum jelly are useful in preventing your nasal passages from drying out. Try not to blow your nose too hard and never insert objects into your nostrils.