Archive for February, 2008

Surviving a Nose-Bleed

Posted: 23 February, 2008 in Science

Once again its been way too long since I’ve written anything on this blog of mine, but hey thats just means I’ve been storing up ideas for the next couple of years 😉

It’s red, wet, pulsing, messy, it tastes like..?…, it smells like..?… and ITS ALIVE! Its a nose-bleed. Ok, fine, so it smells and tastes a lot like blood – but that would have given my game away! 🙂

I’m willing to bet my little sister that I’ve had more nose bleeds than most of you reading this article, due to a whole bunch of reasons. I guess it will suffice to say, I know what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve had enough of them to know what starts them, what stops them and whole bunch of things you can do with your time while you’re having one, as well as a possible solution for them.

‘Epistaxis’ is the fancy medical name given to the condition known in layman’s terms as a nose-bleed. It is defined as an acute haemorrhage from the nostril, nasal cavity, or nasopharynx. The haemorrhage is usually from the anterior, from the nasal septum. A lot of nose bleeds originate in the Kiesselbach plexus which is a group of little group of blood vessels on the anterior part of the septum. The bleeding can also be posterior, from branches of the sphenopalatine artery in the posterior of the nasal cavity/nasal pharynx.

That basically means that a bleeding-nose (epistaxis) is known as a relatively short, but severe (acute) bleeding (haemorrhage) from the inside of the nose. The bleeding can come from the ‘wall’ which divides your two nostrils, or from the back of your nostril. (less common than the other type)

There are so many causes for nose-bleeds, but for those of us who have them regularly, the cause is a weakened vessel which keeps re-opening. But other reasons for nose-bleeds can be things like: inhaling certain chemicals, foreign bodies in the nose, nasal tumors, a dry nasal mucosa (a very dry nose), some nasal sprays, especially those containing steroids, surgery, trauma (banging your nose against something), hypertension (high blood pressure), allergies, alcohol, drugs like cocaine, pregnancy, vascular disorders and of course, the one that nobody is guilty of – nose-picking.

Well, now that you know what a nose-bleed is, and what causes it, we’ll leave off the scientific part for now and I’ll give some practical pointers I’ve learnt over the years.

Nose bleeds tend to be recurring because, as I said earlier, the vessel is weakened while its healing. This means that bumping your nose, rubbing it, blowing it etc will be likely to make it bleed. So, need I say: try to avoid stuff like that. Obviously, sometimes you HAVE to blow your nose. When this happens, try to blow gently, and don’t squeeze your nose together if possible. Try to keep it a gentle blow, with as little pressure from your fingers as possible. You may have repeat this more often than a normal blow, but its a lot better than starting another bleed. Remember that not only is a bleed inconvenient , but every nose bleed you have sets back the healing process.

Hot baths or showers are BAD news! You WILL bleed if your water is hot. This is because the hot water raises your blood pressure, and obviously, increased pressure on an injured vessel will break it open. So try to keep the temperature of your water low when your nose is having a bad week.

Over recent weeks, many people have had nose bleeds due to the hot weather – this has the same effect as the hot water. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about this. Try not to do anything that’s going to raise your heart rate too much if you are worried about a nose bleed on a hot day. Dry air in winter is a killer too. I know this isn’t a perfect analogy, but have you ever noticed how a plant which hasn’t had water for long time shrivels up? Well, dry skin, which is used to having water inside it also shrinks when there is a lack thereof. This means stress on the vessels which tend to bleed. Sigh* Hot weather, cold weather… where can we run?? BUT… there is a solution for dry air. Get a saline nasal spray like Sterimar or Salex which you can spray into your nose 5 or 6 times a day, or whenever its feeling dry to moisturize it a bit. I promise, this helps A LOT. These two sprays are also great for colds btw 🙂 I prefer Sterimar because it is well designed.

If you are prone to nose-bleeds, try to avoid blood-thinning medicines like Disprin, because these will make the blood clot more slowly.

Stopping nose bleeds:

There is a lot of nonsense that people say you should do when you have a nose bleed.

Most people will tell you to pinch the bridge of your nose. This usually doesn’t help at all and I consider it to be a waste of time. It’s helpful to pinch the fleshy part of your nose, just below the bony part, but remember, when the blood clots, it forms a gooey substance which is gonna be piled up above the place where you’re pinching, and that’s just disgusting. I find that pinching my nose is not very helpful, although others swear by it.

Lying down flat is silly, as is bending over a basin or toilet and letting it bleed. The lower your nose is, the faster its going to bleed. If your heart doesn’t need to pump the blood UP then there is less work required and you will bleed faster. Just like riding up a hill is relatively slow, but riding a flat stretch of road (not tarred road – heaven forbid) is a lot faster and easier. If you want to lie down, make sure that your head is at least higher than your heart by propping yourself up with some pillows. If you’re not sure where your heart is, ask your mom 😀 This however, does cause most of the blood to run down your throat, which can cause nausea in some people. If your nose is bleeding really badly, it can impede your breathing a bit, as I found out a few days ago, but tha’ts unlikely for most people, and if you are ok with the sensation warm, flowing blood gives you, then go for it.

Sometimes, an ice pack on the top of your nose feels soothing, although I don’t think this actually helps to arrest the bleeding.

I find that the quickest, most effective treatment is plugging my nose with a dense wad of tissue. This absorbs the blood, as well as applies pressure to the bleeding vessel (if its on the septum) and it leaves both your hands free! If you plug/pinch your nose properly, it should clot within 5 minutes. So keep the plug of tissue or the pressure from your fingers on the nose for at least five minutes and then remove the tissue gently and careful to avoid ripping the vessel open again. Take it easy for a while after you’ve just had a bleed to allow the blood to clot as much as possible.

There are many people who have never had a nose bleed in their life, but most people will have at least one due to trauma to the nose. If an when it does happen to your for the first time, don’t be too alarmed by the blood. It can make a person look like a murderer if it’s given a chance to get over your face. Its also alarming when you see it on someone else. Don’t let it freak you out, it looks a lot worse than it actually is, and trust me, you actually lose a lot less blood than you think. Due to God’s wonderful mechanism for clotting blood, you usually don’t have time to lose that much blood before good old vitamin K kicks in. I’ve measured how much blood I lose over 6 bleeds in a day – its really not life-threatening 😉

Finally, there is a solution which is once-off and very effective for chronic nose-bleeders. Its a quick procedure done in an ENT’s room’s known as corterization. I’m having mine done soon, so I’ll write a short article on what that’s like in a little while when I know what I’m talking about.

Until then, keep dry!