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First Aid & Emergencies

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Stopping a Nosebleed - Topic Overview

Most nosebleeds occur in the front of the nose and involve only one nostril. Some blood may drain down the back of the nose into the throat. These nosebleeds typically are not serious, and you can generally treat them yourself at home.

A less common but more serious type of nosebleed starts in the back of the nose and often involves both nostrils. Large amounts of blood may run down the back of the throat. This type of nosebleed may occur more frequently in older adults because of health conditions they may have. You will need treatment from a doctor to control bleeding from this type of nosebleed.


Stopping a nosebleed

Follow these steps to stop a nosebleed:

  • Sit up straight and tip your head slightly forward.
    Note: Do not tilt your head back. This may cause blood to run down the back of your throat, and you may swallow it. Swallowed blood can irritate your stomach and cause vomiting. And vomiting may make the bleeding worse or cause it to start again. Spit out any blood that gathers in your mouth and throat rather than swallowing it.
  • Use your thumb and forefinger to firmly pinch the soft part of your nose shut. The nose consists of a hard, bony part and a softer part made of cartilage. Nosebleeds usually occur in the soft part of the nose. Spraying the nose with a medicated nasal spray (such as Afrin) before applying pressure may help stop a nosebleed. You will have to breathe through your mouth.
  • Apply an ice pack to your nose and cheeks. Cold will constrict the blood vessels and help stop the bleeding.
  • Keep pinching for a full 10 minutes. Use a clock to time the 10 minutes. It can seem like a long time. Resist the urge to peek after a few minutes to see if your nose has stopped bleeding.
  • Check to see if your nose is still bleeding after 10 minutes. If it is, hold it for 10 more minutes. Most nosebleeds will stop after 10 to 20 minutes of direct pressure.
  • Put a thin layer of a saline- or water-based nasal gel, such as NasoGel, or an antiseptic nasal cream inside your nose. Do not blow your nose or put anything else inside your nose for at least 12 hours after the bleeding has stopped.
  • Rest quietly for a few hours.
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