By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Hands up who hasn't suffered a nose bleed? And who hasn't panicked at the sight of so much blood? When our nose bleeds it's easy to think the worst - we panic that a bleeding nose means cancer, leukemia, a tumor, or some other life-threatening condition.
When your nose is bleeding it can be frightening and stressful, whether you see a flood of blood or a few drops on your tissue. One in seven of us will suffer a nose bleed, otherwise known as epistaxis, at some point in our life (University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 1996 and 2002). But fortunately most of these nose bleeds are not serious and they can be stopped at home. Only 15 out of every 10,000 nose bleeds require outpatient care, and 1.6 in 10,000 requires hospitalization (Medical Disability Advisor). The most common, and easily stoppable, nose bleed is an anterior nose bleed, where the bleeding comes from a blood vessel in the inside of the nose. What causes nose bleeds? How do you stop a nose bleed at home? And what can you do to prevent nose bleeds if you suffer them frequently?
Causes of Nose Bleeds
The inside of your nose is delicate and easily damaged. You have many tiny blood vessels inside the lining of your nose that rest close to the skin's surface. Consequently, the most common causes of nose bleeds are damage to the blood vessels from injury, scratching or nose picking, and from dry air. If your nasal membranes are too dry you are more likely to suffer a bleeding nose.
If you frequently suffer a bleeding nose it could be because you have weak collagen, the protein that helps strengthen the walls of your blood vessels. You may suffer from a condition called fragile capillaries. Other symptoms of fragile capillaries include easy bruising, bleeding gums and heavy periods.
Nose bleeds may be frightening and inconvenient but they are generally no more than a passing annoyance. However, some nose bleeds can be dangerous. If your nose is bleeding for more than 30 minutes, you feel dizzy or light-headed, or the blood makes it difficult for you to breathe, seek medical attention. Visit your doctor if you suffer repeatedly from nose bleeds and also if you are bleeding from other parts of the body too.
If your nose is bleeding, don't panic. We've checked out recent scientific research that shows how to treat and prevent nose bleeds.
1. How to Stop a Nose Bleed
If you suffer an occasional nose bleed take matters into your own hands with advice from the National Health Service, UK. Sit upright and lean forward slightly to avoid swallowing blood. Pinch your nose using your thumb and index finger, just above the nostrils so both remain closed. Keep pinching for 10 minutes, and then repeat. Once the bleeding has stopped keep upright and don't bend over, and leave your nose alone for the rest of the day. If the bleeding hasn't stopped after 20 or 30 minutes, see a doctor.
2. Limit Your Exposure to Dry Air to Prevent Nose Bleeds
Dry air can cause problems with the lining of your nose, making it easier for the nose to become irritated, infected or bleeding. The heat of your home in the winter, or the air conditioner in the summer, can cause your nose to bleed. Try using a humidifier or a vaporizer - a simple pan of water next to the heater can help. You can also use a small amount of petroleum jelly to keep the inside of your nose moist. (Read more about causes of and cures for dry nose.)
3. Nose Bleeding? Stick Some Bacon Up Your Nose
Seriously, now. Apparently strips of cured pork help stop your nose bleeding. This is according to 2011 research from Michigan State University, Detroit. The researchers showed that a four-year-old boy with a rare blood disorder was successfully treated for uncontrollable nose bleeding with strips of cured pork packed into the nostrils. This is the first known incidence of nose bleeds cured by bacon, and probably shouldn't be tried at home.
4. Citrus Bioflavonoids Decrease Frequency of Nose Bleeds
One cause of a bleeding nose is fragile capillaries. Citrus fruits are known for their bountiful content of vitamin C but they also provide citrus bioflavonoids such as quercetin, diosmin and rutin. Bioflavonoids such as these are believed to benefit people with fragile capillaries and those that bruise easily. A 1993 study by Service de Médecine Interne, Hôpital de Pessac, France on 96 people demonstrated that the bioflavonoids diosmin and hesperidin decreased the frequency of nose bleeds in people with fragile capillaries and were more effective than placebo.
5. Try OPCs for Nose Bleeds
Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs) are a set of closely-related chemicals that occur in such natural sources as maritime pine, red wine, tea, and grape seed extract. OPCs are said to treat easy bruising, and are of possible use to people who suffer frequent nose bleeds. OPCs may help protect collagen, according to 1994 research from Istituto Chimico Farmaceutico Tossicologico, Milan, Italy. A 1980 study by J-Y Dartenuc, P Marache, and H Choussat, France, found OPCs protected capillaries more effectively than placebo, although the study was small and not specifically designed to monitor nose bleeds.
6. Bilberry for Nose Bleeding?
Like OPCs, the chemical anthocyanoside could help strengthen capillaries by preventing the breakdown of collagen - anthocyanoside is present in large amounts in the herb bilberry. However, there are no reputable studies so far that show whether bilberry is an effective treatment for nose bleeds.
7. Vitamin C and Nose Bleeds
If you have scurvy, a severe deficiency of vitamin C, you will bleed easily from the nose. And vitamin C is essential for the normal development of collagen. But most people don't suffer from scurvy and there is no concrete evidence that says vitamin C can prevent or treat nose bleeds when you are not severely vitamin C deficient.
8. Shepherd's Purse is a Traditional Remedy for Nose Bleeds
Shepherd's purse, the herb, has traditionally been used as a nose pack, or topical application, to stop nose bleeds. Does this herb really work to prevent nose bleeding? Sadly there is no scientific evidence that proves so, although many people swear by its effectiveness. Be careful if you are pregnant and suffering nose bleeds - shepherd's purse can stimulate uterine contractions.
9. Treat Sinusitis to Stop Nose Bleeds
Sinusitis is the inflammation of the cavities in your sinuses, which are often infected by viruses and affected by allergies. Sinusitis can cause nose bleeding. One remedy for sinustitis is an herbal combination of gentian root, elderberry, primrose, and common sorrel, according to a 2006 trial by the Institute of Complementary Medicine, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland. The herbal extract was more effective than placebo in treating sinustitis in a total of 300 men.
10. Help Your Hay Fever to Prevent Your Nose Bleeding
One common cause of nose bleeding is hay fever - an allergic condition that causes sneezing, teary eyes, a runny and often bleeding nose. One possible remedy for hay fever and associated bleeding nose? Try butterbur. A 2005 study from the Allergy Clinic, Landquart, Switzerland showed that of the 330 people taking an extract of butterbur, an antihistamine, or a placebo, those that took butterbur or antihistamine experienced a reduction in hay fever symptoms.