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Nosebleeds (medically known as epistaxis) can be frightening. However, they are fairly common, particularly in children, and can often be treated at home.
During a nosebleed, blood flows from 1 nostril, or sometimes both. It can be heavy or light, and can last from a few seconds to more than 10 minutes.
You may feel liquid in the back of your throat before blood runs from your nose. This usually happens while you're lying down. Nosebleeds can also occur while you're asleep.
Most nosebleeds are minor and usually stop with some self-care.
However, the bleeding may be heavier or last longer if you have high blood pressure a condition where your blood doesn't clot (thicken) properly or if you're taking medication that thins your blood (anticoagulants), such as warfarin or aspirin.
Go to the emergency department if:
Visit your doctor if you have had a nosebleed and:
The inside of your nose is full of tiny blood vessels which can bleed if they're disturbed by injury, such as picking or blowing your nose.
Nosebleeds can also happen if the moist lining (mucous membrane) inside your nose dries out and becomes crusty.
This can be caused by an infection, cold weather or the drying effect of central heating. If the lining becomes inflamed or cracked, it's more likely to bleed if it is then disturbed.
Nosebleeds can start just inside your nostrils (anterior) or at the back of your nose (posterior). They have many different causes, including:
In some cases, nosebleeds can be a symptom of another condition. This could be a blood clotting abnormality, e.g. haemophilia (an inherited condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot), von Willebrand disease (an inherited disorder that causes bleeding and bruising) or leukaemia (although this is rare and you are likely to have other symptoms as well).
Anyone can get a nosebleed, but they are most common in:
Nosebleeds aren't usually serious. However, a nosebleed can be more serious for older people whose blood takes longer to clot because they are at risk of losing more blood.
If your doctor suspects a more serious problem, they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for further tests.
Excessive bleeding over a prolonged period of time can lead to anaemia.
Frequent nosebleeds (more than once a week) or heavy nosebleeds can make anaemia worse if you're losing a lot of blood.
You can usually stop a nosebleed yourself by pinching your nose just above your nostrils for 10 to 15 minutes.
Leaning forward and breathing through your mouth will drain blood down your nose instead of down the back of your throat. You should also:
Go to the nearest hospital's accident and emergency department as soon as possible if the bleeding doesn't stop after you've maintained pressure for 10 to 15 minutes.
If you seek medical help because your nosebleed hasn’t stopped after 10 to 15 minutes you may be given additional treatment, including:
You may be given additional tests to check for the cause of your nosebleed. These include measuring your blood pressure and pulse rate, as well as blood tests to check whether your blood is clotting properly.
If your nosebleeds are found to be caused by medication that you are taking, such as blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants) like aspirin, warfarin or heparin, or an anti-inflammatory medicine, your doctor may need to change or adjust the dose.
In severe cases, you may need surgery to prevent the nosebleeds happening again. In this case, your doctor will refer you to an ENT specialist.
After a nosebleed, avoid doing the following things for 24 hours:
If you are taking nasal decongestants, take care to follow the instructions carefully and talk to your doctor if you have been prescribed blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants) and you have a history of nosebleeds.
Taking extra precautions when playing contact sports may reduce your risk of nose injury and bleeding.
Date of last review: 17 July 2020
Nosebleed. [Internet]. NHS.uk. 2020 [cited 19 June 2020]. Available here.
Epistaxis (nosebleeds) - NICE CKS [Internet]. Cks.nice.org.uk. 2020 [cited 19 June 2020]. Available here.
Epistaxis [Internet]. Dynamed.com. 2020 [cited 19 June 2020]. Available here.
Epistaxis - Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | BMJ Best Practice [Internet]. Bestpractice.bmj.com. 2020 [cited 19 June 2020]. Available here.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.