Nosebleed (Epistaxis, Nose Bleed, Bloody Nose)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What if a person has frequent nosebleeds?

If a nosebleed recurs four times or more in a week, see a health-care professional to determine why this is occurring. Frequent nosebleeds may be caused by many factors including

  • Frequent picking or blowing the nose
  • A low humidity environment
  • Chronic allergies
  • Medications including blood thinners, aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, antihistamines, decongestants, or nasal sprays
  • Health conditions that affect normal blood clotting
  • A structural problem within the nose
  • Abnormal blood vessels within the nose (for example Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome, a hereditary condition)
  • A polyp or tumor in the nose or sinuses.
  • Use of complementary and alternative medicines such as Ginkgo biloba and vitamin E, which may increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Snorting drugs such as cocaine.

If the nosebleed persists or is recurrent, see your health-care professional who may recommend stopping the nosebleed with a heating instrument or chemical swab (cautery of the blood vessel that is causing the trouble), or application of a topical medicine called thrombin that promotes local clotting of blood. Blood tests may be ordered to check for bleeding disorders. If bleeding is still persistent, the doctor may place nasal packs, which compress the vessels and stop the bleeding. In rare situations, you may be admitted to the hospital or require surgical treatment or a procedure where material is used to plug up the bleeding vessels in the nose (angiographic embolization).

What precautions can you take to prevent nose bleeding?

The most common cause of a nose bleeds is drying of the nasal membranes. If a person is prone to recurrent or frequent nosebleeds, it is often helpful to lubricate the nose with an ointment of some type. The ointment can be applied gently with a Q-tip or fingertip up inside the nose, especially on the middle portion (the septum). Many people use remedies for nosebleeds such as A + D ointment, methylsalicylate/menthol (Mentholatum, BenGay, Icy Hot), Polysporin, neomycin/bacitracin/polymyxin (Neosporin ointment), or Vaseline. Saline mist nasal spray is often helpful (Ocean Spray).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2015

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