What's Causing My Nosebleeds?

Author: Sherry Farney

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, nosebleeds are defined as, “a common problem that occur at some point in at least 60% of people in the United States. While the great majority of nosebleeds are limited in severity and duration, about 6% of people who experience nosebleeds will seek medical attention.”

Nosebleeds occur when tiny blood vessels in the nose dry out and break open or rupture. Two culprits that cause this dryness during the cold weather months are changes in temperature and air moisture, a result of spending more time inside where our furnace is running 24/7.

“You may experience nosebleeds more frequently in the winter, but it is important to confirm with your doctor that these nosebleeds aren’t a result of another underlying issue,” said Dr. Esmael Amjad, ENT at McLaren Flint. “While you can self-treat minor nosebleeds, it is important to see a doctor if the severity and frequency of your nosebleeds increase.”

Steps to prevent nosebleeds include:

  • Using saline spray.
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Blow your nose softly.
  • Keep the lining of your nose moist by gently applying a light coating of saline gel, petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking dries out the nose and irritates it.

How to self-treat a nosebleed

When experiencing a nosebleed, sit down and lean slightly forward with your head upright. Use your thumb and index finger to squeeze your nose. Hold until the bleeding stops, or at least five minutes. Once bleeding stops, avoid aggravating your nose.

When to see a doctor

  • If your nose doesn't stop bleeding after 20 minutes (head to the nearest urgent care or emergency room, depending on severity)
  • If you get nosebleeds weekly
  • If you often experience blood draining from your nose down your throat
  • If you experienced an injury that has led to frequent nosebleeds

“A nasal cautery is a common treatment for frequent and heavy nosebleeds,” said Dr. Amjad. “This procedure involves applying a chemical to the open blood vessels in the nose that are causing nosebleeds. The chemical creates a scab that seals and heals the aggravated blood vessels, causing less nosebleeds. This is an out-patient procedure that can be performed without a general anesthetic.”