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Nosebleed, First Aid 

Picture of Nosebleed, First Aid: First Aid for Nosebleed: View the animation to learn how to stop a nosebleed. Divider line
First Aid for Nosebleed: View the animation to learn how to stop a nosebleed.
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First Aid Guide
Nosebleeds either occur spontaneously or are the result of some sort of trauma, such as a hit to the face. Things that cause nosebleeds are certain medical conditions (eg, colds, allergies, high blood pressure, and bleeding abnormalities such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease), extreme cold and/or dry air, nose picking, strenuous activity, certain medications (eg, nasal sprays), and being hit in the nose.

Most nosebleeds occur in the front of the nose when there is damage to the blood vessels. Other nosebleeds occur in the back of the nose, causing bleeding into the throat.

First Aid Guide
The following self-care measures are recommended:
  1. Have the person suffering the nosebleed sit upright and lean forward. He/she should breathe out of his/her mouth.
  2. If there are any clots in the nostril, have the person gently blow them out.
  3. Firmly pinch the soft part of the nose, and place a cold compress on the bridge of the nose. This should be done continuously for 15 minutes. Do not release the pressure on the nose.
  4. If the person's nose is still bleeding, repeat the above steps one more time.
Note: If the person's nose is still bleeding after repeating the above steps one time, seek medical care.

In the case of an object lodged in the nose, removing the object promptly is important in avoiding infection as well as the possibility of the object moving further back into the nose. The below self-care measures should be attempted to remove the object.
  1. Determine which nostril is affected.
  2. Put gentle pressure on the opposite nostril using 1 finger.
  3. Have the person blow their nose.
  4. Encourage the person to sneeze by having him/her sniff pepper.
Note: Do not stick anything in the nose (eg, tweezers, pliers) to attempt to pull out the object.

In the case of a suspected broken nose, seek medical care. While awaiting medical care, the following self-care measures can be followed:
  1. Have the person breathe out of his/her mouth.
  2. Have the person sit upright and lean forward to help keep blood from going down the back of the throat.
  3. Apply a cold compress to the nose.
Note: Do not attempt to straighten a broken nose.

The following can help prevent nosebleed recurrence:
  • Avoid physical activity for 12 hours after a nosebleed.
  • Touch the nose as little as possible for 24 hours after a nosebleed.
  • Avoid hot beverages, alcoholic beverages, smoking, and aspirin for a full week after a nosebleed.
  • When lying down, elevate the head with pillows.
  • Breathe from the mouth rather than the nose.
  • Use a humidifier.
Who's At Risk
Those people living in cold, dry climates; those who suffer from colds and/or use nasal sprays; those with certain medical conditions, such as bleeding abnormalities; and those who disturb the blood vessels in the nose by picking are prone to nosebleeds.

Additionally, people who participate in strenuous activity or exercise, such as athletes, are prone to nosebleeds.
Signs and Symptoms
Typically, a nosebleed involves blood rapidly dripping out of the nose in droplets.

A nosebleed caused by a broken nose may or may not look misshapen.

In the case of a nosebleed caused by an object lodged in the nose, the foreign object may or may not be visible.
When to Seek Medical Care
Seek emergency medical care if a neck injury or serious head injury is suspected.

Get medical help if the person bleeds or bruises easily, is on any blood-thinning medication (eg, large does of aspirin, warfarin [Coumadin®]), has high blood pressure, or if the nosebleed continues after 30 minutes of the self-care measures discussed in the First Aid Guide.

If the nosebleed is occurring in the back of the nose, into the throat, bleeding will be hard to stop and the person should likely seek medical care.

If you suspect a nosebleed caused by a broken nose, seek medical care; a broken nose that heals improperly can affect breathing and appearance.

If the nosebleed is caused by an object lodged in the nose and it cannot be removed by the the self-care measures discussed in the First Aid Guide, seek medical care.
Treatments Your Provider May Prescribe
The physician may pack the nose with gauze or an inflatable latex balloon to properly put pressure on the blood vessel(s) to stop the bleeding.

If you have frequent nosebleeds, your physician may need to burn (cauterize) the blood vessel(s) with electric current, silver nitrate, or a laser on the inside of the nose that are causing the problem.


References/Trusted Links
References

Handal KA; American Red Cross. Part 2: first aid. In: The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook. 1st ed. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company; 1992:161-163.
Last Updated: 22 Dec 2008