It’s a peaceful Saturday morning, and you’re enjoying a steaming cup of coffee while engrossed in a book. Without warning, you see your child clutching their nose and blood begins to trickle down their upper lip.
Panic sets in. What do you do next? Where is that box of tissue when you need it the most?
In these moments, a nosebleed can seem more frightening than it really is. However, when armed with the right knowledge of effective first aid for nosebleeds, you can help anyone experiencing this common but unsettling situation.
While these incidents can easily be managed at home, understanding their causes and knowing what steps to take when someone you know gets a nosebleed allows you to provide safe, immediate assistance.
Read on to discover the common causes of nosebleeds, learn first aid techniques and gain practical tips to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Your knowledge can make a difference when it matters most.
A nosebleed, medically known as epistaxis, refers to the discharge of blood from the tissue that lines the inside of your nose. This can happen in either or both nostrils, although it typically affects just one nostril.
Inside your nose, tiny blood vessels play a role in warming and moistening the air you inhale. These vessels, unfortunately, lie close to the inner surface of your nose. When the air passing through your nose becomes dry, it can irritate these blood vessels, making them highly vulnerable to injury or rupture—resulting in a nosebleed.
This might sound alarming, but most nosebleeds are common and usually aren’t serious.
In fact, roughly 60% of people have experienced a nosebleed at some point in their lives, but only 10% need medical help due to its severity.
Epistaxis can affect anyone. However, certain individuals are more susceptible to nosebleeds including:
- Children aged between two and ten: Children are more prone to nosebleeds due to colds, dry air, allergies and the habit of sticking fingers or objects into their noses.
- Adults between the ages of 45 and 80: This age group is more likely to have conditions such as bleeding disorders, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (the hardening of artery walls).
- People taking blood-thinning medications: Those on medications like warfarin and aspirin are at an increased risk of nosebleeds.
- People who suffer from blood clotting disorders: Conditions like von Willebrand disease and haemophilia also heighten the risk of nosebleeds.
- Pregnant women: Pregnancy can expand blood vessels in the nasal passages, increasing pressure on the blood vessels within the nasal lining.
Causes Of Nosebleeds
A variety of factors trigger nosebleeds. These factors can be broadly categorised into three causes: local, systemic and environmental:
- Trauma: Physical injury or trauma to the nose such as picking the nose, inserting foreign objects or a blow to the face can damage the blood vessels in the nasal lining.
- Nasal infections: Inflammation and irritation from infections in the nasal passages can make the blood vessels more prone to rupture.
- Nasal polyps: Noncancerous growths in the nasal passages may rub against the blood vessels, causing nosebleeds.
- Chemical irritants: Exposure to irritants like allergens and strong chemicals irritate the nasal lining and trigger nosebleeds.
- Medications: Antiplatelet drugs and blood thinners may interfere with the blood’s ability to clot, making the nose more prone to bleeding.
- Hypertension: High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels throughout your body, including those in the nose.
- Vitamin K deficiency: A deficiency in vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting, may lead to bleeding problems.
- Dry climate: Living in a dry climate with low humidity can dry out your nasal membrane, making your nose more likely to bleed when rubbed or picked.
- Altitude changes: Rapid changes in altitude and air pressure can cause nasal blood vessels to expand and contract, leading to nosebleeds.
How To Stop A Nosebleed: First Aid For Epistaxis
Image source: Freepik
Here’s what you should do in the event of a nosebleed:
Step 1: Stay Calm
The person with the nosebleed and the person offering assistance should remain calm. If they start to freak out, it can make them bleed more. This is especially important when dealing with children, as they can easily become frightened by the sight of blood.
You need to show a sense of reassurance and control to help manage their anxiety, reducing stress-induced factors like increased heart rate.
Step 2: Position The Person
Image source: St. John Ambulance Australia
Make sure that the person maintains an upright sitting position to manage a nosebleed effectively. Instruct them to tilt their head slightly forward to prevent blood from flowing down the back of the throat, which might cause nausea or choking.
Never tilt their head back! We know this has been a common practice for some people, but this can potentially backfire and lead to complications. The person may end up swallowing blood, and some of it could go into their lungs.
Step 3: Pinch The Nostrils
Ask the person to use their thumb and forefinger to pinch their nostrils together—the fleshy part of their nose just below the bony bridge. This is where the blood vessels, which are probably the source of bleeding, are located.
Encourage them to maintain pressure for at least ten minutes. It will allow time for the blood vessels to constrict and create a clot.
Step 4: Breathe Through The Mouth
To avoid accidentally inhaling blood through your nostrils, instruct the person to breathe through the mouth. Remind them to keep their mouth open and encourage calm breathing to help reduce anxiety.
Step 5:Prevent Rebleeding
Once the nosebleed has stopped, advise the person not to pick or blow their nose forcefully. They shouldn’t engage in strenuous exercise or activity for at least a day since this could cause rebleeding.
Gently applying a saline gel, antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly on the inside of the nose to keep it moist helps. You can also put an ice pack across the bridge of the nose or cheeks for 15 minutes to constrict blood vessels and reduce bleeding.
When To Worry About A Nosebleed And Seek Medical Attention
Yes, nosebleeds aren’t always serious and stop on their own. But while they can be managed at home with basic first aid, there are certain situations where you should be concerned and seek immediate medical attention, including:
Immediately contact a doctor if the nosebleed continues for more than 20 minutes despite applying pressure. Prolonged or heavy bleeding may indicate an underlying health issue that requires medical evaluation.
If the nosebleed is caused by a serious injury to your head, such as a fall or an accident, medical attention is necessary. In most cases, head injuries lead to more serious internal bleeding.
You should consult a medical professional if you experience nosebleeds frequently—even minor ones. This might be a sign of a problem inside the nose, such as nasal growth or nasal polyps.
If the nosebleed is accompanied by other concerning symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing, severe headache or fainting, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Avoid driving yourself to the emergency room, especially if you’re losing a lot of blood. Dial your local emergency number for ambulance services or ask someone to drive you to the nearest hospital.
If you’re concerned about the severity of your nosebleed, it’s crucial to seek medical help immediately. A medical professional will need to step in to find the cause of the bleeding or stop it directly.
We highly advise that you don’t take chances with your health. If you’re unsure or have any doubts, seeking medical advice is always the best course of action.
How To Prevent Nosebleeds
It’s not always possible to prevent future nosebleeds, but there are things you can do to reduce your chances of getting them:
- Humidify your environment. Dry indoor air can dry nasal passages, making them more vulnerable to bleeding. Use a cool mist humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air in your home, specifically in your bedrooms.
- Don’t pick your nose with long, sharp fingernails. This can damage the delicate blood vessels in the nasal passages and trigger nosebleeds.
- Keep your nose moisturised. Dry nasal membranes can lead to nosebleeds. To keep your nasal passages moist, use over-the-counter nasal saline sprays several times a day. You can also apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the opening of your nostrils with a cotton swab.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can irritate the inside of your nose and dry out the mucous membranes.
- Protect your nose. If you’re involved in sports or physical activities, make sure that you wear a head guard to keep your nose or head from getting injured.
To ensure you’re taking the right precautions for better nasal health, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional.
Confidently managing a nosebleed at home is an essential skill. When you stay calm, apply the right amount of pressure and take steps to prevent rebleeding, you can help someone get through a nosebleed incident and ensure their safety.
However, learning first aid awareness for nose bleeding should also come with a sense of responsibility. You should know when to call for professional help and look out for signs like prolonged bleeding or symptoms like severe headache and chest pain.
Fortunately, Medlink is here to equip you with the right knowledge on applying first aid for nosebleeds and other emergencies. Whether you handle children or know someone prone to epistaxis, you can benefit from our first aid courses led by qualified first aid trainers.
Get in touch with us—we’re ready to lend a helping hand.
What is the first aid for nose bleeding?
To manage nose bleeding incidents, here are the first-aid steps you should follow:
- Stay calm.
- Position the person. They should maintain an upright sitting position with the head tilted slightly forward.
- Pinch their nostrils using yung thumb and forefinger for at least five minutes.
- Instruct them to breathe through the mouth.
- Apply a cold compress to the bridge of their nose.
Is nose bleeding a worry?
Nosebleeds are usually not a cause for immediate worry. They can be managed with simple first-aid techniques, and they stop on their own or with minimal intervention.
However, there are instances where nosebleeds might warrant medical attention. This includes:
- Prolonged and frequent bleeding
- Nosebleeds caused by serious injuries
- Other symptoms like difficulty breathing, severe headache, etc.