Nosebleeds: First aid
Medically reviewed on September 21, 2017
Nosebleeds are common. Most often they are a nuisance and not a true medical problem. But they can be both.
- Sit upright and lean forward. By remaining upright, you reduce blood pressure in the veins of your nose. This discourages further bleeding. Sitting forward will help you avoid swallowing blood, which can irritate your stomach.
Pinch your nose. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch your nostrils shut. Breathe through your mouth. Continue to pinch for 10 to 15 minutes. Pinching sends pressure to the bleeding point on the nasal septum and often stops the flow of blood.
If the bleeding continues after 10 to 15 minutes, repeat holding pressure for another 10 to 15 minutes. Avoid peeking at your nose. If the bleeding still continues, seek emergency care.
- To prevent re-bleeding, don't pick or blow your nose and don't bend down for several hours after the bleeding episode. During this time remember to keep your head higher than the level of your heart. You can also gently apply some petroleum jelly to the inside of your nose using a cotton swab or your finger.
- If re-bleeding occurs, blow out forcefully to clear your nose of blood clots. Then spray both sides of your nose with a decongestant nasal spray containing oxymetazoline (Afrin). Pinch your nose again as described above and call your doctor.
When to seek emergency care
- The bleeding lasts for more than 30 minutes
- You feel faint or lightheaded
- The nosebleed follows an accident, a fall or an injury to your head, including a punch in the face that may have broken your nose
When to contact your doctor
- You experience frequent nosebleeds. You may need a blood vessel cauterized. Cautery is a technique in which the blood vessel is burned with an electric current, silver nitrate or a laser. Your doctor may pack your nose with special gauze or an inflatable latex balloon to put pressure on the blood vessel and stop the bleeding.
- You're experiencing nasal bleeding and taking blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven). Your doctor may advise adjusting your medication dosage.
Using supplemental oxygen administered with a nasal tube (cannula) may increase your risk of nosebleeds. Apply a water-based lubricant to your nostrils and increase the humidity in your home to help relieve nasal bleeding.