While nosebleeds may be scary, they are usually quite harmless. The most common type of nosebleed (epistaxis) originates from the anterior (front) part of the nose where there is a network of fragile blood vessels. During the winter months, when the indoor air is warm and dry, these vessels can become irritated and prone to bleeding. Rubbing, blowing or picking the nose can also cause irritation, which is why children or those suffering with a cold or allergies often get nosebleeds. Anterior nosebleeds usually present with bleeding from only one nare and can range from small streaks on the tissue to a significant amount of blood trickling out.
If you are experiencing a nosebleed, try pinching the nose with constant pressure for 10-15 minutes. Make sure you sit up straight with your head tilted slightly forward as tilting the head back will not stop the bleeding and may cause you to swallow and subsequently vomit the blood. When the bleeding subsides, try not to rub or blow as this may cause re-bleeding. Use a humidifier and apply nasal saline or petroleum jelly to the nose for prevention.
While anterior nosebleeds usually resolve with pressure and time, there are more serious nosebleeds that originate from the back of the nose, which require emergency intervention. These posterior nosebleeds are more common in elderly patients, those with bleeding disorders or anyone taking blood thinners such as coumadin or aspirin. Therefore, if the bleeding does not subside with the above measures and/or if you are experiencing any dizziness, increased heart rate or are at risk for a posterior nosebleed, seek immediate medical care.