What is nose bleeding?
Nosebleed or epistaxis is a common problem faced by most people at least once in their lifetime. Nose is the organ associated with breathing and faces extremes of the outer environment. Both children and elderly people are at increased risk of this condition. An increase or decrease in temperature, pressure or humidity can cause a sudden nosebleed. The exact reasons tend to vary. Often, it is not serious and gets well within minutes. However, frequent nosebleeds can be a sign of underlying disorder in which case, it should be diagnosed properly.
Why is the nose prone to bleeding?
There are two basic reasons as to why the nose is prone to bleeding
- The nose has many blood vessels in it to help warm and humidify the air you breathe. These vessels lie close to the surface, making them easy to injure.
- It is the organ that faces the external temperature variations most. In order to regulate the temperature of the air entering the body, the membranes get damaged.
Types of Nose Bleeding
There are 2 types of epistaxis:
- Anterior nose bleeding: It happens in the septum, the thin wall between the nostrils. It is generally harmless. It is most commonly seen in children.
- Posterior nose bleeding: It happens in the area where the arteries enter the nose. As a result, the bleeding is heavier. It indicates some serious underlying issues. Mostly older people face posterior nose bleeding.
What causes nosebleeds?
The most common causes of nosebleeds are dryness (often caused by indoor heat in the winter) and nose picking. These 2 things work together — nose picking occurs more often when mucus in the nose is dry and crusty.
Other, less common, causes include injuries, colds, allergies, or cocaine use. Children may stick small objects up their noses. Older people may have atherosclerosis (which is the hardening of the arteries), infections, high blood pressure, and blood clotting disorders. (Note that patients on blood thinners or medicines for slowing down clotting frequently face nosebleed).
Nosebleeds may occur if you are taking drugs that interfere with blood clotting, such as aspirin. A rare cause of frequent nosebleeds is a disorder called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). Sometimes, the cause of nosebleeds can’t be determined.
Lastly, Nosebleeds may occur out of Physical factors: Any fall or accident that damages the face is most likely to cause nose damage too. If a person is already suffering from cold and forcefully blows out the nose, it may lead to bleeding. Kids often pick their nose causing new damages as well as the scabs from older ones to come off.
Though not a serious issue, a nosebleed can cause discomfort and sometimes panic too. Here are the ways in which you can prevent it:
- Avoid over-blowing your nose especially if you previously had bleeding.
- Keep your room/house humidity level in control.
- Apply moisturizer or petroleum jelly inside the nose.
- Do not pick the scabs inside your nose.
First Aid and Treatment: What should I do when I get a nosebleed?
If your nose is bleeding, you can do the following:
- If you get a nosebleed, sit down and lean slightly forward. Keeping your head above your heart will slow the bleeding. Lean forward so the blood will drain out of your nose instead of down the back of your throat. If you lean back, you may swallow the blood. This can irritate your stomach.
- Use your thumb and index finger to squeeze together the soft portion of your nose. This area is located between the end of your nose and the hard, bony ridge that forms the bridge of your nose. Keep holding your nose until the bleeding stops. Don’t let go for at least 5 minutes. If it’s still bleeding, hold it again for another 5 to 10 minutes.
- Put ice packs around the nose.
- Apply moisturizing ointment to stop further irritation.
- Put gauze inside the nose to the bleeding source if you have posterior nose bleeding.
- Go for septal surgery if the curved septum is cause for recurrent bleeding.
- You can also go for ligation of the arteries that lead to blood loss.
Once the bleeding stops, don’t do anything that may make it start again, such as bending over or blowing your nose.
See your doctor if:
- The bleeding goes on for more than 20 minutes
- The bleeding was caused by an injury, such as a fall or something hitting your face
- You get nosebleeds often
About 60% of the global population faces nosebleeds at least once in a lifetime. From 60%, only 10% of cases indicate a serious issue. Even though nose bleeding is not considered a serious health condition, it is important to consult your doctor if the bleeding does not stop.