Medically known as epistaxis, nose bleeds occur when the tiny blood vessels of the nose
break due to trauma, dryness or inflammation. Nosebleeds are extremely common, and
most people will have several throughout their lifetime. They are more common in
children under 10 years of age due to the common obsession of putting things,
especially their fingers inside the nose. It is also very common in those between the
ages of 50 and 80.
Most isolated events of epistaxis are caused by irritation from blowing the nose or other
trauma such as being scrapped by a fingernail. Direct blows to the nose as in sports or
an altercation will also frequently cause the nose to bleed. Dry air that is common
during the winter months when indoor heaters dry out the house or in naturally dry
climates can also lead to frequent nosebleed as the nasal mucosa dries out and the skin
easily cracks open and bleeds.
An ENT evaluation is often necessary when nosebleeds become frequent and/or difficult
If blood starts to trickle out the front of one or both nostrils, it is likely an anterior nosebleed.
To prevent anterior nosebleeds, avoid traumatizing the nasal passageways and keep the mucosa moist. This can be done by placing a light coating of saline gel, petroleum jelly, or an antibiotic ointment on the end of a Q-tip and gently applying it inside the nostril, especially on the middle portion of the nose (the septum).
If blood starts flowing immediately down the back of your throat, it is may be a posterior nosebleed. Direct pressure to the front of the nose does not stop the bleeding and decongestant nasal sprays are not likely to work. It is important to seek immediate medical attention to prevent significant blood loss if you think you are having a posterior nosebleed.
Posterior nosebleeds are more common in older people and those with a history of nasal or sinus surgery or injury to the nose or face. Treatment typically includes cautery and/or packing the nose with a special gauze, tampon, or an inflatable balloon that applies pressure to the bleeding vessels.