Irritation of the nasal passages can cause nose bleeds, a frightening – but usually harmless – condition. They are common, especially in young children and older adults.
An estimated one out of seven people will develop a nose bleed at some point in their lifetime.
Are Nose Bleeds Dangerous?
When the membranes lining the nasal passages dry out the blood vessels can burst, causing a nose bleed. This is especially common when the air is cold and dry, i.e., during the winter months. Other causes include colds, allergies, sinus infections, blowing the nose vigorously, inserting foreign objects into the nasal cavity, overuse of nasal sprays, head or facial trauma, and clotting disorders.
Most nose bleeds originate in the front of the nose, usually the lower portion of the septum, and are harmless. Blood typically flows from a single nostril, and can be stanched by sitting up straight, leaning forward slightly, and pinching the nostrils together with your thumb and index finger. The bleeding should stop in 5-10 minutes.
Nose bleeds that begin in the back of the nose can be serious; fortunately, they are rare. Known as posterior nose bleeds, these form high and deep in the nose and may drip down the back of the mouth and throat. These types of nose bleeds are considered a medical emergency and require an immediate trip to the hospital. They are most likely to affect the elderly, or those who have experienced trauma to the nose or head.
How Can Nose Bleeds Be Prevented?
Keeping the nasal lining from drying out is the best way to prevent nose bleeds. Petroleum jelly is an excellent moisturizer; other steps you can take include using saline nasal spray, running a humidifier, and quitting smoking.