What Causes Nosebleeds (& How to Stop Them)

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Nosebleeds (epistaxis) are a common occurrence for many adults and children because of the nose’s high density of blood vessels. Luckily, nosebleeds are usually easy to stop at home. But when you deal with frequent or chronic nosebleeds, you may be wondering if there are any natural remedies that can stop from occurring in the first place. I did some digging and came up with some tips and tricks for you.

Causes of Nosebleeds

A nosebleed occurs when blood flows from one or both nostrils. The most common reason for a nosebleed is local trauma. This can happen from mild injuries like having a ball kicked in the face, falling and hitting the nose, or something similar. This kind of trauma is common for kids who are playing outside all day (as they should be!).

Another cause is dry mucous membranes. Dry air can irritate the mucous membranes and cause cracking and crusting that can lead to nosebleeds. High altitude can contribute to this dryness.

Nasal or sinus infections or colds may also contribute to nosebleeds, as well as foreign material in the nostrils.

If the nostrils are already dry or cracked, nose picking can also contribute to nosebleeds.

In rare instances tumors, vascular malformations, liver disease, bleeding disorders, and other serious medical issues can be to blame for nosebleeds. Additionally, children with chronic illness and who take medications may have more frequent nosebleeds. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional to rule this out.

What Causes Chronic Nosebleeds in Kids?

Chronic nosebleeds are most often caused by nose picking along with dry mucous membranes or other irritation in the nasal passages. If your child has frequent nosebleeds, consult a medical professional to rule out underlying issues. Keeping your child’s nose moist is often all that needs to be done to help reduce nosebleeds. Most nosebleeds are easy to stop and don’t indicate a serious problem. However, it’s a good idea to consult an ear, nose, and throat doctor as well to rule out underlying issues.

How to Stop Nosebleeds

There are two kinds of nosebleeds — anterior and posterior. Anterior nosebleeds come from the front of the nose (usually from dry membranes, nose picking, etc) while anterior nosebleeds come from deeper inside the nose (more often caused by trauma).

If you or your child are experiencing a nosebleed, here are your first steps:

  • Have the child sit upright. This helps relieve pressure in the veins of the nose.
  • Have the child tip head forward slightly. This helps reduce swallowing blood which can irritate the stomach.
  • Have the child gently blow their nose to remove excess blood from the nostrils.
  • Use the thumb and forefinger (or direct your child to use theirs) to pinch both nostrils shut (even if only one is bleeding). Pinching the soft part of the nose helps put pressure on the bleeding area.
  • Continue to do this for 10-15 minutes. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped yet, replace pressure for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the bleeding stops, help your child to not touch or rub their nose.
  • A cold compress over the bridge of the nose can help restrict blood vessels and stop bleeding as well.

These tips almost always help remedy a nosebleed at home within 15 to 30 minutes.

Additionally, you can dip a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and apply it to the bleeding nostril. This is thought to help restrict the blood vessels.

When to Seek Medical Care

Nosebleeds can usually be stopped easily at home. But if your child’s nosebleed doesn’t stop with the above recommendations a trip or call to your doctor is the next best step:

  • If a nosebleed follows another injury (like a head injury)
  • If breathing becomes difficult
  • If a large amount of blood is lost
  • If a nosebleed occurs in a child younger than 2 years old
  • If it lasts longer than 30 minutes even following the above guidelines
  • If you’re taking anticoagulant medications

If you’re ever unsure, it’s best to consult your doctor about what you need to do for a nosebleed.

Natural Remedies for Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds can occur for a number of reasons. These natural remedies can help reduce the frequency of nosebleeds and may help you avoid them altogether. Nosebleeds can be very upsetting for young kids, so I always prefer to avoid them when we can!

Keep the Lining of the Nose Moist

Since dryness and irritation are common causes of nosebleeds, I always work on avoiding dry nostrils first. Here’s what I do:

  • Use saline nose drops or spray – saline drops or spray can help keep the nasal passages moist when the air is dry. I like Genexa saline since it’s made without added artificial ingredients. If one of the kids is especially sensitive to nosebleeds at that time, I’ll be sure to have them use a saline spray daily for a few days or a week.
  • Humidifier – A humidifier is another option for helping keep the nasal passages moist. Moist air soothes and relaxes the mucous membranes. A humidifier in the bedroom at night (or throughout the house in the day) can be helpful for keeping nasal passages moist during the winter or if you live in a dry climate.
  • Use moisturizing lubricants such as a beeswax ointment or salve. This can help the dry crusty nasal passages to repair.

And of course, drink lots of water! Hydration is important for keeping mucous membranes moist.

Keep Children’s Nails Trimmed

Since nose picking can irritate already irritated nostrils, it helps to keep fingernails trimmed so they are less likely to cause damage.

Avoid Strenuous Activity

Intense activity can irritate already irritated nasal passages. Ruptured blood vessels need 7-10 days to recover, so it’s best to treat them gently. Avoid exertion, lifting, or straining for a week after the nosebleed to allow repair. This will be more difficult for children to follow but is helpful to stop a recurrence.

Vitamin K

This vitamin is essential for proper blood clotting, so it’s important to be sure to get enough of this vitamin every day. Foods that contain vitamin K include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

Vitamin K is also important for collagen formation in the body. If you don’t have enough vitamin K you could end up with dryer nasal passages which can lead to a nosebleed, since vitamin K deficiency can cause collagen reduction.

If you find it difficult to get enough vitamin K through food, supplements are an option too.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also an important nutrient to help with nosebleeds. Studies show that vitamin C is important for blood vessel health. It helps support collagen formation and reduces inflammation in blood vessels according to a 2013 study.

Vitamin C is easily found in fruits and vegetables but if you aren’t seeing improvements you may need to supplement as well.

Zinc

This nutrient is also known to be important for blood vessel health. While there isn’t any research directly tying it to fewer nosebleeds, it’s a good idea to get adequate amounts of zinc anyway. Find zinc in these foods:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Dark chocolate

Supplements are an option as well if you can’t get enough zinc from food sources.

Nasal Irrigation

Using a neti pot to irrigate the nasal passages can help keep the nostrils moist as well as remove dust and debris that can irritate them. This is also helpful when you have a cold or sinus infection. A neti pot can seem intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really quite simple. Even my kids use one!

Stop Nosebleeds Easily at Home

If you or your child gets nosebleeds often, these tips will help you to stop the nosebleed quickly as well as help reduce the frequency of nosebleeds. With lots of kids in our family, nosebleeds aren’t a rare occurrence! But with these natural remedies, I always feel ready to tackle one when it happens.

What are your best nosebleed remedies?

This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board-certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Sources:

  1. Sharaev PN, Bogdanov NG, Iamaldinov RN. Ob obmene kollagena v kozhe pri razlichno? obespechennosti organizma vitaminom K [Collagen metabolism in the skin with different vitamin K regimens]. Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1976 Jun;81(6):665-6. Russian. PMID: 953299. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/953299/
  2. May, J. M., & Harrison, F. E. (2013). Role of vitamin C in the function of the vascular endothelium. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 19(17), 2068–2083. https://doi.org/10.1089/ars.2013.5205 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3869438/




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