How to Stop a Nosebleed

March 16, 2023

Although annoying and messy, nosebleeds (call them epistaxis to impress your friends) are rarely serious medical concerns. That being said, go to the nearest emergency room if: 

  • Have had ongoing bleeding for more than 15-20 minutes despite holding pressure
  • You are taking blood thinners such as aspirin, fish oil, Coumadin, (warfarin), or clopidogrel
  • You feel dizzy or light-headed
  • You have chest pain or palpitations
  • You lose what you feel is a great deal of blood (gather in a measuring cup if possible)
  • You are anemic at baseline and the bleeding is significant
  • You have a bleeding disease such as hemophilia
  • You have received a blow to the head or ear (trauma)

Assuming you are in basically good health, your nosebleed might be caused by dry weather, nose picking, irritation from allergies, nose blowing, infection, or blow to the nose. What to do?

Lean forward so that the blood will go into your nose to form a clot. Pinch your nose gently, and breathe through your mouth. When pinching your nose it is important to hold continuous pressure for at least 5-10 minutes (without checking repeatedly if the bleeding has stopped) Ice cubes packed in a washcloth or small plastic bag can be applied to constrict blood vessels. A bag of frozen vegetables will also do. The bleeding should stop in 10 to 15 minutes. If unsuccessful after 20 minutes, call your physician or go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility.

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