Many people have been noticing an increase in nosebleeds—here’s why you might be getting them and how you can treat them effectively.
If you’ve been having more frequent nosebleeds recently, you’re not alone. Although nosebleeds are very common, their prevention and treatment methods are often misunderstood. To bust some myths and help us figure out why we’ve been seeing more nosebleeds lately, we spoke with otolaryngologist Dr. Mindy Rabinowitz.
What are the most common causes of nosebleeds?
There are three different causes for nosebleeds: dryness, blood thinners and underlying blood disorders or other medical conditions. Dryness is the most common cause of nosebleeds. In very rare cases we’ll see a tumor in the nose that causes bleeding.
Has COVID-19 played a role in increased nosebleed incidences?
I have not seen COVID-19 as a direct cause for nosebleeds. But people may be seeing more nosebleeds now because of the winter weather—the air is dry and cold, so the likelihood that your nose will become dry is increased. The good news is, wearing a mask may actually help prevent nosebleeds. With a mask on, we are creating a moisture chamber for our noses with the humidity from our warm breath. Wearing a mask also helps avoid breathing in irritants, dust and various chemicals that can trigger nosebleeds.
How can people prevent nosebleeds, especially during cold months?
If our skin is dry, what do we do? We use lotion. If our lips are chapped, what do we do? We put on chapstick. So if our nose is dry? That’s right, we moisturize! Moisturizing the nose looks like having a cold mist humidifier in your at-home office space—these are available at all local pharmacies—using saline nasal sprays and putting petroleum jelly on the inside of your nose to lock in moisture.
You don’t need to be doing these things unless you’re experiencing dryness. The nose has mechanisms to humidify itself, but come wintertime, especially for those with dry skin, some may be more prone to nosebleeds. In that case, it is appropriate to go ahead and use these moisturization techniques that are not invasive, don’t require medication and are safe to use regularly or even daily.
Are there myths that exist about treating nosebleeds?
There are three main misconceptions about how to handle nosebleeds. The first one is that when someone gets a nosebleed, they often pinch the bridge of their nose to try to stop the blood flow. But what they’re actually doing is holding the bone and not applying any pressure. What you want to do is hold the lower part of the nose, the nostril, because nosebleeds often occur from the front of the nose.
Another thing people do to stop nosebleeds is put ice on the nose or face. While this isn’t going to hurt you, it’s not really going to do anything because the bleeding is occurring on the inside, not the outside.
Finally, when you get a nosebleed, one of the worst things you can do is tilt your head back. When you lean your head back, all of the blood will flow back inside your nose, down your throat and into your stomach.
What are the correct nosebleed remedies?
If you get a nosebleed, you should hold pressure on the soft part of your nose. Additionally, an over-the-counter decongestant spray can be really helpful when sprayed in the side of the nose that is bleeding. These sprays clamp down on the blood vessels, but you should only use them if you’re actively bleeding. Overuse can make them less effective over time.
When is the appropriate time to seek medical help?
If you have prolonged bleeding and home remedies are not helping, it’s time to speak to a healthcare professional. Nosebleeds should stop within a few minutes. If you’re experiencing nosebleeds that last 30 minutes to an hour or are happening frequently, there are things we can do to help—like cauterizing the active site or taking a more invasive approach with surgery if needed.
The most important thing to know is that although nosebleeds are common, there is always something we can do to help. Even if you have just one or two nosebleeds, never feel bad reaching out to your doctor. This is what we are here for and we are waiting to help you.