Nosebleeds can be scary and surprising, but for the most part, they aren’t dangerous — and they are easy to treat. For those who stay clear of overly physical encounters, there is usually a simple explanation for why we get nosebleeds.
“Here in San Diego, one of the most common causes of a nosebleed is low humidity from Santa Ana conditions,” says Dr. James Ochi, pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “When the moisture content in the air drops low enough, this can cause drying and irritation of the inside lining of the nose, which will cause bleeding.”
It’s important to be gentle with your nose when blowing it, as the anatomy of a nose includes small and fragile blood vessels that are the leading cause of these nosebleeds.
“People with a history of nasal allergies often have increased inflammation of the nasal mucosae, which will make them more susceptible to nosebleeds,” says Dr. Ochi.
What to do when you have a nosebleed
- Maintain constant manual pressure. “Parents are asked to gently, but firmly, grasp the end of the nose between their thumb and index finger, and hold without letting up for at least 10 minutes by the clock,” says Dr. Ochi. “All too often people will apply pressure for about 15 to 30 seconds and let go, which is not enough time.”
- Spraying oxymetazoline — over-the-counter sprays like Afrin® or Dristan® — in the nose will help slow bleeding.
- Lightly blow your nose to remove any clots.
In his experience, Dr. Ochi has noticed that the common tactic of tilting your head back does not work; instead, he recommends leaning forward to avoid swallowing blood. But do not put your head between your legs — stay true to the rule of “head above heart.”
How to prevent nosebleeds
- Use a humidifier. Other than keeping the air moist and possibly helping avoid side effects of inside ventilation, a humidifier will keep your nose from drying out.
- Don’t pick your nose. This can cause trauma to the thin lining in your nose and cause a nosebleed.
- Gently blow your nose. Blowing your nose too hard can cause the blood vessels to burst in your nasal cavity.
- If you are prone to nosebleeds, use nasal-decongestant spray on a regular basis.
If you are having regular nosebleeds that are not a symptom of low humidity or nasal allergies, Dr. Ochi recommends seeing a doctor, as it could be a symptom of a clotting disorder or the results of taking an anticoagulant medicine.