Nosebleeds 101: Answers to common questions

A picture of a woman with a nosebleed


The inside of your nose is full of tiny, delicate blood vessels that can become damaged and bleed easily. While nosebleeds usually aren't concerning, they can sometimes indicate more serious health problems. If your doctor suspects an issue, they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist or ENT doctor.

Below, Nebraska Medicine ENT specialist Christie Barnes, MD, answers common questions about nosebleeds, including:

  • What causes nosebleeds and how to prevent them
  • What to do if you experience a nosebleed
  • When to seek medical care

What causes nosebleeds?

Common causes of nosebleeds include:

  • Picking your nose
  • Frequent nose blowing or blowing too hard
  • A minor injury to your nose
  • Cold, dry winter air or changes in humidity and temperature

Occasionally, bleeding can come from the vessels deeper in the nose. This may be caused by:

  • A blow to the head
  • Recent nasal surgery
  • Hardened arteries or atherosclerosis

Contrary to popular belief, nasal sprays should not cause nosebleeds. To prevent injury, aim the spray nozzle toward the outside and back of your nostril, with the tip angling toward the back and outside corner of your eye.

Who gets nosebleeds?

Anyone can get a nosebleed, but they most often affect:

  • Children between 2 and 10 years old
  • Elderly people
  • Pregnant women
  • People who take blood thinners
  • People with blood clotting disorders, such as hemophilia
  • People with a crooked or deviated septum

Bleeding may also be heavier or last longer if you:

  • Take medicines that help prevent blood clots
  • Have a blood clotting disorder
  • Have high blood pressure

How can I prevent nosebleeds?

There are things you can do to prevent nosebleeds, such as:

  • Avoid picking your nose
  • Blow your nose gently and as little as possible 
  • Use a humidifier – when using them in small spaces, such as your bedroom, keep the door closed to lock in moisture
  • Lubricate the lining of your nose with coconut oil, especially before bed
  • Use over-the-counter saline nasal sprays as needed for moisture, and follow the directions carefully if using a decongestant spray
  • Wear a head guard during activities that could injure your nose or head

What should I do if I experience a nosebleed?

To stop a nosebleed:

  1. Sit down and pinch the soft part of your nose above your nostrils for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Lean forward and breathe through your mouth – this will help drain blood into your nose instead of down the back of your throat.
  3. Stay upright, rather than lying down, to reduce the pressure in the blood vessels of your nose and prevent further bleeding.
  4.  If the bleeding does not respond to pressure from pinching your nose, consider using an over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray to cause the blood vessels to shrink.

When should I seek medical care for a nosebleed?

If the bleeding eventually stops, you likely don’t need to see a doctor. However, frequent or heavy nosebleeds may indicate a more serious issue.

Contact your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room if:

  • The bleeding doesn’t stop
  • The bleeding is related to a blow to the face, head or nose
  • You experience frequent or reoccurring nosebleeds 
  • You experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath or a pale complexion
  • A child under 2 years of age has a nosebleed

As mentioned, nosebleeds usually aren’t anything serious. Still, frequent or heavy nosebleeds may be reason for concern. If you're unsure about your condition or if you should see a doctor, we're here to help. Call our ENT team at 800.922.0000.