Nosebleeds can be frightening. However, they are fairly common, particularly in children, and can often be treated at home.
The medical term for a nosebleed is epistaxis. During a nosebleed, blood flows from one nostril, or sometimes both nostrils. It can be heavy or light and last from a few seconds to more than 10 minutes.
The inside of your nose is full of tiny blood vessels, which can bleed if they’re disturbed by a minor injury, such as when picking or blowing your nose.
Nosebleeds can also occur 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 mucous membrane becomes inflamed or cracked, it’s more likely to bleed if is is disturbed.
You can usually stop a nosebleed yourself by pinching your nose just above your nostrils for 10 minutes. Leaning forward and breathing through your mouth will drain blood down your nose instead of down the back of your throat.
If you seek medical help because your nosebleed hasn’t stopped bleeding after 20 minutes, a procedure called cauterising may be used to stop the bleeding. This involves sealing the bleeding area by using a low level of heat or a tiny dab of silver nitrate.
Most nosebleeds are minor and usually stop with some self-care. You only need to visit your GP if you have heavy or frequent nosebleeds.
Bleeding may be heavier or last longer if you have high blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure, 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.
If you have a nosebleed that lasts longer than 30 minutes, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E).