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First aid for a bloody nose and how to stop it

Bloody noses, clinically known as epistaxis, are an occurrence that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives. The most common causes are direct trauma from injury, and believe it or not, nose-picking. It may also occur from excessive blowing of the nose particularly during colds, illness, or fits of allergies. In other cases, high blood pressure can lead to nosebleeds.

Anterior nosebleeds, or nosebleeds from the front of the nose, are more common, occurring about 90 to 95 percent of the time. Posterior nosebleeds are less common, typically affect the elderly and are the result of atherosclerotic disease or high blood pressure/hypertension. In general, when nosebleeds happen, a few simple steps will usually help stop them.


Do

Do apply pressure to the nose

Apply pressure below the bridge of the nose and occlude the affected nostril. However, use caution if the nosebleed is the result of direct trauma with the risk of a broken nose; sometimes displacement of the nasal bone can cause complications and worsen the bleed.

Do apply a cold compress to the affected area

Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the nose. This will help assist with clotting and prevent any swelling that may have resulted from trauma causing the nosebleed.

Do seek medical attention if not stopping

If the bloody nose persists or keeps recurring after 20 minutes, seek medical attention.

Do consider medical treatment for broken nose

Seek medical attention if you’re injured and concerned about a broken nose. A runny nose with a clear discharge coming from the nose, could be cerebrospinal fluid and suggest worse facial trauma.

Do try nasal decongestant spray

Do attempt to use nasal decongestant spray, like Afrin, to help constrict small vessels and help stop the nosebleed. Typically, one to two puffs in the affected nostril is enough to help stop the bleeding.


Don't

Do not press too hard

Don’t apply too much pressure if you’re concerned about a break in the nose. Minor trauma that causes a nosebleed is fine, but a fracture may have occurred, and pressing can affect other structures and facial bones, causing further harm.

Do not tilt your head back

Keep your head upright or slightly leaned forward. This will help keep blood from draining down the back of the throat and swallowing clots.

Do not ignore repeat or recurrent nosebleeds

If nosebleeds keep occurring, follow up with a primary care physician to determine the underlying cause, whether it is hypertension, or medications like warfarin or other blood thinners, or the development of an undiagnosed bleeding disorder.

Do not pick your nose

As mentioned above, not picking the nose will help prevent nosebleeds from developing and prevent injury to the inner nasal mucosa and the delicate superficial vessels of the nose. Also, consider getting a humidifier to help get rid of the dryness in the air. Applying petroleum jelly to the inside of your nose will also help get rid of dryness.

Do not sniff or blow your nose after a nosebleed

Practice caution with the nose after a nosebleed. Avoid forcefully sniffing or blowing your nose for a few hours after the nosebleed to prevent repeat bleeding.


Summary
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By using caution and care, you can quickly resolve a nosebleed. If the simple steps to control a nosebleed are ineffective and the nosebleed does not stop, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.


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Photo Credits: B-D-S/bigstock.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Justin C. Young, M.D.Doctor

Justin C. Young, M.D. is a physician from Atlanta, who now lives in Los Angeles. He is a 2002 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and former Student Body President. He graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., in 2008 and started initi...

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