Nov 8, 2021

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

I have had the pleasure of growing up with nosebleeds. Getting hit in the head with a soccer ball, baseball or someone's arm and it was almost a guarantee my nose would start bleeding. They even showed up during the cold-dry winter months, sometimes for no reason at all. Being congested and having to blow my nose will almost always give me a nosebleed. Wrestling with my kids is now the most frequent cause. My solution as a kid was putting a kleenex plug in it and going on with life. That tradition continues. However, with one of my sons getting nosebleeds it got me thinking; can anything be done to prevent them and what is the best way to treat them?

A nosebleed is blood loss from the tissue that lines your nose. It can affect both nostrils, but most often occurs in only one nostril. In most instances a nosebleed is not serious. The nose has a high number of blood vessels which function to keep it warm and act as a humidifier for the air you breathe. For these functions, the vessels must be close to the surface, increasing the risk they can be injured. Nosebleeds are more common in your children compared to adults. However, adults often have more serious nosebleeds.

Most commonly nosebleeds are caused by dryness in the air and nose picking. Often in children they go hand in hand. Air is usually most dry in the winter and indoor forced air heat contributes to the issue. Colds and allergies also contribute to nosebleeds. The severity of nosebleeds in adults can be enhanced by blood thinner use and high blood pressure. Inhaled steroid nasal sprays can also increase the risk of nosebleeds. If you use one, try point the spray today the outside of the nostril versus the middle. I always suggest pointing the tip toward your ear one the side where the nasal spray tip is inserted.

To prevent nosebleeds, keep children's fingernails short to limit nose vessel injury during nose picking. Parents also want to discourage nose picking. You can prevent the drying effects of indoor heated air by using a humidifier at night in your bedroom. Opening your mouth when you sneeze will also reduce pressure in the nose, although you will obviously want to cover your mouth with a tissue or your elbow. The DCP sells some very effective nasal gels, hydrating sprays and lubricants. I have had some good success using these when the air is dry. They also help protect the vessels in the nose, so give them a try.

It turns out my treatment method of jamming tissue up my nose to create a clot might not actually be the best. If you remove the plug too early the bleeding will restart. The tissue can also irritate more vessels. Never stick any other foreign objects in your nose as they can swell and become stuck.

Through some investigation I found some tips to help once the cold dry air becomes more common. If a nosebleed starts, sit down, and lean slightly forward. Keeping your head above your heart will assist in slowing the bleeding. Lean Forward so the blood drains from the nose and not into the back of the throat. Its not a great feeling and might make your stomach queezy. Pinch the soft portion of your nose with your thumb and index finger. A tissue or cloth can be used to catch any falling blood. Ice can be very helpful as well. Place an ice pack over the bridge of the nose. If there is snow nearby you can use that too. This can help restrict the blood vessels and may slow the bleeding while you have your nostrils pinched. The process usually takes 5 to 10 minutes. Once its over avoid blowing your nose or bending over.

Frequent nosebleeds might make you consider nasal cautery by a doctor or specialist. The process uses a long stick with silver nitrate on the tip to restricts blood flow to the blood vessels it contacts. While the area is usually numbed prior to the procedure with an anesthetic, you can imagine it is not a comfortable procedure. However, for many is a better option than frequent bothersome nosebleeds. Keep in mind repeat procedures may be necessary.

As winter approaches, the weather gets colder, the heat gets turned on and the air gets drier, nosebleeds can begin to increase in frequency. A cold season with lots of nose blowing will not help. Hopefuly some of these tips will!

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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