NosebleedOverview

Nosebleeds aren't usually a sign of anything serious. They're common, particularly in children, and most can be easily treated at home.

See a GP if:

  • a child under 2 years old has a nosebleed
  • you have regular nosebleeds
  • you have symptoms of anaemia – such as a faster heartbeat (palpitations), shortness of breath and pale skin
  • you're taking a blood-thinning medicine, such as warfarin
  • you have a condition that means your blood can't clot properly, such as haemophilia

Your GP might want to test you for haemophilia or for other conditions such as anaemia.

Go to A&E if:

  • your nosebleed lasts longer than 10 to 15 minutes
  • the bleeding seems excessive
  • you're swallowing a large amount of blood that makes you vomit
  • the bleeding started after a blow to your head
  • you're feeling weak or dizzy
  • you're having difficulty breathing

Causes of a nosebleed

The inside of the nose is delicate and nosebleeds happen when it's damaged. This can be caused by:

  • picking your nose
  • blowing your nose too hard
  • the inside of your nose being too dry (because of a change in air temperature)

Nosebleeds that need medical attention can come from deeper inside the nose and usually affect adults. They can be caused by:

  • an injury or broken nose
  • high blood pressure
  • conditions that affect the blood vessels or how the blood clots
  • certain medicines, like warfarin

Sometimes the cause of a nosebleed is unknown.

Certain people are more prone to getting nosebleeds, including:

  • children (they usually grow out of them by 11)
  • elderly people
  • pregnant women

How to stop a nosebleed yourself

You should:

  • sit or stand upright (don't lie down)
  • pinch your nose just above your nostrils for 10 to 15 minutes
  • lean forward and breathe through your mouth
  • place an icepack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a teatowel) at the top of your nose

Hospital treatment

If doctors can see where the blood is coming from they may seal it by pressing a stick with a chemical on it to stop the bleeding.

If this isn't possible, doctors might pack your nose with sponges to stop the bleeding. You may need to stay in hospital for a day or two.

When a nosebleed stops

After a nosebleed, for 24 hours try not to:

  • blow your nose
  • pick your nose
  • drink hot drinks or alcohol
  • do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise
  • pick any scabs

Page last reviewed: 18/12/2017
Next review due: 18/12/2020