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!


  1. Beth says:

    That is so Nasty 🙂

  2. Neil says:

    The question remains – what’s the theology behind epistaxis?

  3. antz002 says:

    Well, there even though this post wasn’t primarily ‘theological’, I’ve been taught that theology (a study of God) can be found in almost everything.
    So – what’s the theology behind epistaxis?
    Well, I guess you could be reminded of The Fall in Gen 3:6 and the Curse in Gen 3:14-19 and come to the conclusion that epistaxis is a result of sin.
    I suppose that each time your nose bleeds and you see the blood, you can be reminded of the perfect blood (the perfect life and death) Christ shed for repentant sinners.
    And personally, I always enjoy seeing a wound bleeding ‘dirty’ blood, and then being scrubbed and seeing red, ‘clean’ blood issuing from it. When you look at the blood from a nose-bleed, you can remember how your blood has been made clean (obviously in a spiritual sense)
    And then finally from my side – you can learn to trust the sovereignty of God by not getting upset about when your nose bleeds. I’ve had nose-bleeds while playing the drums in church… not very convenient 😀
    Can you think of any more?

    By the way – I had my nose cauterized today, so I’ve learnt all about it (for starters, I now know how to spell ‘cauterized’ 🙂 ) and with that came my first ‘fix’ of cocaine…. watch this space! 😀

  4. Duane says:

    Another reason why the weather plays a role is the action of vasodilatation (enlarging or widening of the blood vessel) due to warm temperatures, which cause the weakened blood vessel to POP open. Atmospheric pressure-changes especially before or after the rain often plays havoc for some chronic nasal bleeders. These are just two areas I have seen in my own practice. This is a great review of the Nose Bleed and it’s consequences, Well Done !!

  5. Neil says:

    Well how about Colossians 3 – heard about it?
    Mortify the bad – stop the bleeding – cauterize those sins that so easily beset us. Put on the good – have sympathy for other people drowning in their epistaxis and while you care for their haemorrhaging – glorify God with all your thoughts and deeds!

  6. Ant says:

    Lol – Good application Neil! Viva Intendo317!

  7. Neil says:


  8. Caleb Gage says:

    when is Intendo317 gonna be ready?

  9. paul says:

    hello ant. ive had problems with my nose bleeds since i was young. i am 18 now and when i was around 11 – 13 i had really bad nose bleeds…really bad. so my nose was corterized. i remember it as a really bad experience. but my memory was vague (i think thats how you spell vague). recently ive had them come back. they cam back last summer and i decided not to go hospital (mainly because of my silly phobeia of last time i was corterized). dont be a fool like me because this summer, infact yesterday i went to the hospital (oh by the way i forgot to nosebleeds eventually went away after a while but are now back again this summer.) so yeah i went to the hospital and they corterized it, it is nothing to be affraid of. it is a piss easy thing where they spray sum anastetic up ya nose then shuv this stick up it for a around 30 seconds. onestly i dont no what i was so scared of. however i have heard of this process not working and what ive heard is that they give you a cream and corterize it again and again until its fixed.

  10. Ant says:

    Hey Paul – I’m glad you got your nose sorted out – I know what bad bleeds are like! As I understand it, the time cauterization wouldnt work is if a different vessel starts to bleed, or if the doctor didn’t manage to nail the vessel squarely. Your nose should be fine bro.

  11. charlotte greenwood says:

    Hey Ant.Sorry to rain on your parade but my 4 year old daughter has had both of her nasal passages cauterized on 5 different occassions ,this procedure unfortunatly doesnt seem to have worked for i speak we are just home from the hospital after yet another go and she has to return in 8 weeks to get her left nostril done as both nasal passages can not be done at the same time.However i do believe that if she was older this procedure would have benefited her more as you can expect from a 4 year old there are still some temper tantrums which generally start the bleeds off again .i do hope this prosedure worked for you

  12. Ant says:

    Hey Charlotte

    5 cauterizations for your daughter sounds very bad. So many attempts could damage the tissue between the two nostrils requiring further surgery later on. But never-the-less I am just a humble dental student, so I wont argue with your doctors. The success of the procedure depends on a few things, not least of them being that the doctor actually has to nail the culprit (the weak vessel) which can be difficult especially in a 4-year-old’s little nostril.

    You might want to just keep your eyes peeled for nose-picking. That can open new vessels and damage the repaired ones leading to further bleeds. Not uncommon in young children 😉 Just keeping her from picking her nose (if she does) will allow the vessels to heal and hopefully alleviate the frequency of bleeds, if not stop them altogether.

    All the best for sorting the problem out – I do hope you find a solution soon!

  13. Andrea says:

    Thanks for the tips on dealing with the bleeding. I found your article while trying to figure out how much blood you could stand to lose from a nosebleed. My husband has been suffering all day from a barometric-related nosebleed. That’s our take on it anyway since it occurs as he goes from from cold to hot temps. It certainly does seem like a lot of blood but since we’re not currently insured, we’ll wait for weakness and chills before we venture out to the emergency room!

  14. Andrea says:

    Also, we enjoyed your theological take on it all as well. Gave us something else more interesting to discuss as he pinches and spits.

  15. Eric says:

    Thank you so much for writing this blog! I’ve been having nose bleeds every time I wash my face in hot water. Now I now the reason for this!

  16. Tommy says:

    Hi thanks 4 the advice I read this on my iPod while having a nose bleed, I had had one 2 days b4 at a night club which was very hot, 2days nose bleed was on a very hot day also so I’m blaming heat I also agree with tissue in the nose and you have nothink 2 lose if u hold your nose at the top

  17. I had my nose cauterized(we call it that n Ireland, its a process that chemically burns the tips of the blood vessel) and it is very very painful, for about 1 second. But its worth. I might have to get it again, since due to my recent sniffing of water(to clean my nose :/), and head cold the vessels openend up again :(. Which sucks because ive been bleeding a lot on my holiday to Singapore, where it is sooooo hot.

  18. Roderick Vorhies says:

    Nose bleeds are mostly caused by too much heat. Most of the time it can be remedied by cold compress. .`;*”

    Yours trully

  19. Nene says:

    This is beautifully explained. Helps a lot

  20. Magie Lazu says:

    Hi ! So did you get your nose done ? I am one of those chronic bleeders and what to know how it went for you.

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