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Nosebleed

Nosebleeds are not usually a sign of anything serious. They're common, particularly in children, and most can be easily treated at home.

See a GP if:

  • a child under 2 years old has a nosebleed
  • you have regular nosebleeds
  • you have symptoms of anaemia – such as a faster heartbeat (palpitations), shortness of breath and pale skin
  • you're taking a blood-thinning medicine, such as warfarin
  • you have a condition that means your blood cannot clot properly, such as haemophilia

Your GP might want to test you for haemophilia or for other conditions such as anaemia.

Go to your emergency department (ED) if:

  • your nosebleed lasts longer than 10 to 15 minutes
  • the bleeding seems excessive
  • you're swallowing a large amount of blood that makes you vomit
  • the bleeding started after a blow to your head
  • you're feeling weak or dizzy
  • you're having difficulty breathing

Causes of a nosebleed

The inside of the nose is delicate and nosebleeds happen when it's damaged.

This can be caused by:

  • picking your nose
  • blowing your nose too hard
  • the inside of your nose being too dry because of a change in air temperature

Nosebleeds that need medical attention can come from deeper inside the nose. These usually affect adults.

They can be caused by:

  • an injury or broken nose
  • high blood pressure
  • conditions that affect the blood vessels or how the blood clots
  • certain medicines, like warfarin

Nosebleeds may also be a sign of Hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). This is an inherited genetic disorder that affects blood vessels. 90% of sufferers of HHT complain of frequent nosebleeds.

Sometimes the cause of a nosebleed is unknown.

People who are more prone to get nosebleeds

Certain people are more prone to getting nosebleeds, including:

  • children
  • elderly people
  • pregnant women

How to stop a nosebleed yourself

You should:

  • sit or stand upright - do not lie down
  • pinch your nose just above your nostrils for 10 to 15 minutes
  • lean forward and breathe through your mouth
  • place an ice pack to neck or chew ice better option

Hospital treatment

If doctors can see where the blood is coming from they may seal it. They will press a stick with a chemical on it to stop the bleeding.

If this is not possible, doctors might pack your nose with sponges to stop the bleeding. You may need to stay in hospital for a day or two.

When a nosebleed stops

After a nosebleed, for 24 hours try not to:

  • blow your nose
  • pick your nose
  • drink hot drinks or alcohol
  • do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise
  • pick any scabs

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 21/12/2020
next review due: 21/12/2023

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.