What causes a nosebleed?

Nosebleeds (epistaxis) are either anterior, originating from the front of the nose, or posterior, originating from the back of the nose. Most nosebleeds can be treated at home, but some may require medical attention.

Most nosebleeds are anterior and originate from the septum, which separates the nasal chambers of the nose. The nose can bleed for several reasons, including trauma, such as a fall or blow to the face, dryness, picking, colds or allergies.

Posterior nosebleeds are much less common. They tend to occur in older adults. The bleeding is usually from an artery in the back of the nose and almost always requires medical attention.

How can I stop a nosebleed?

Most nosebleeds can be stopped without the need of medical attention by using the following recommendations:

- Lean forward slightly and also keep the head tilted forward. Tilting the head back may cause blood to enter the sinuses or throat, which could lead to the inhaling or swallowing of the blood.

- Pinch the soft parts of the nose together with your thumb and index finger, while at the same time pressing towards the face. Hold the nose for at least four minutes. Repeat the procedure as necessary until the blood flow stops.

- You should sit in an upright position to keep the head at a higher level than the heart.

- Applying ice to the nose may also aid in stopping the blood flow.

To prevent bleeding again once it's stopped try to avoid blowing your nose. If you need to blow your nose do it with your mouth open. Keep your head elevated. Avoid bending over and strain, such as lifting heavy objects, for several hours.

Tips to prevent future nosebleeds:

- Use a humidifier to counteract dryness cause by indoor heat.
- Keep your nostrils moist by using a saline nasal spray.
- Keep your fingernails trim in case of an inadvertent pick (especially children).
- Include adequate amounts of bioflavonoids in your diet. Bioflavonoids (a class of antioxidants) have been found to increase the strength of capillaries and blood vessel walls. Foods rich in bioflavonoids include citrus fruits, parsley, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, cherries, and dark chocolate.

When Should I seek medical attention?

- If the bleeding is caused by a serious injury.
- If the bleeding continues after 30 minutes of applying pressure.
- If blood is flowing from both nostrils.
- If blood loss is excessive.
- If your nasal passages become blocked.
- If blood runs down your throat even when the nose is pinched.
- If the nose bleeds several times a day or several days in a row (this can be a sign of a more serious problem).

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