University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Hans House, MD
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
First Published: 2000
Last Revised: October 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
While nosebleeds can be frightening, most are only minor nuisances.
There are two types of nosebleeds. Anterior nosebleeds occur in the front part of the nose and flow out the nostrils when you are upright. Posterior nosebleeds come from deep inside the nose and flow down the back of the mouth and throat regardless of your position, says Dr. Hans House, an emergency medicine physician at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
"Nosebleeds are easier to stop if they occur in the anterior portion of the nose. However, most nosebleeds stop on their own or with minimal treatment," House says.
"Most simple nosebleeds occur in the winter months when the air is drier and are probably due to a lack of humidity. Poor humidity dries the lining of the nose, causing it to crack and bleed," he says.
To stop a nosebleed, put pressure on the bleeding point by pinching your nose against the facial bones at the bridge of your nose and hold for five minutes. "If anything, lean forward, with your head above the level of your heart. Do everything possible to not let blood run down your throat. Blood is a stomach irritant, which usually causes nausea," he says.
If you can't control a nosebleed with simple pressure, seek help. Go to a hospital or clinic emergency room. An otolaryngologist may be called in if emergency room personnel can't get the bleeding to stop," House says.
Treatment depends on the frequency and severity of the bleeding. Although people predisposed to nosebleeds can use a lubricating product to rub in the nose or a saltwater solution to mist the inside of the nose, therapies can range from packing the nose with specially treated gauze to surgery to stop blood flow at specific bleeding points, he adds.
Nosebleeds in children usually occur in the front of the nose due to picking the nose or to sensitive nostril linings.
Nosebleeds further along in the nasal passage often require medical attention. These nosebleeds are more likely to occur in older people, people with high blood pressure and those with nasal or facial injuries.
"If you have a nosebleed, try not to overreact. Simply apply pressure to the nose. About 90 to 95 percent of nosebleeds will stop. If it doesn't stop after 10 to 15 minutes, seek medical attention," House says.