Nosebleeds are common, but it’s frustrating— even unsettling— to experience one, especially when you blow your nose and see blood in the tissue and aren’t sure why you got it in the first place. But don't worry— while annoying or off-putting, nosebleeds are generally harmless.
Some causes are more obvious like picking your nose, but what about congestion or overusing nasal decongestant sprays? Is there a connection between nasal congestion and nosebleeds?
It may feel like the two are connected— but are they? And if so, what can you do for congestion when decongestants may also be a contributing factor?
Let’s start with a quick look at what causes a nosebleed.
What Causes a Nosebleed?
Nosebleeds— also known as epistaxis— are extremely common, and most of them are caused by nasal irritation or the common cold.
Your nose contains many small blood vessels that can become irritated and bleed easily. Even air moving through your nose can irritate those sensitive membranes— which is why nosebleeds are more common during winter when the air is colder and drier.
There are two different kinds of nosebleeds, defined by where the bleeding starts. These are:
- Anterior Nosebleed. Anterior nosebleeds start at the front of the nose, causing blood to flow out of your nostrils.
- Posterior Nosebleed. Posterior nosebleeds are caused by the tissue at the back of your nose becoming damaged or irritated. Blood may flow out of your nose, but it can also leak into your throat.
Nosebleeds are caused by multiple factors. Some of these include:
- Cold or dry air
- Injury to your nose— including a nasal obstruction or a broken nose
- Deviated septum
- Blowing your nose too hard
- Picking your nose
- Overusing decongestant nasal spray
- Chemical irritants that are sprayed or snorted
- Irritation from allergies, colds, sinusitis, or other sinus problems
- Nasal polyps
- A sinus infection
Occasional nosebleeds are no cause for alarm. However, frequent nosebleeds can be a symptom of another underlying disorder. For instance, recurring nosebleeds can be a sign of serious conditions like high blood pressure, a blood clotting disorder, or even a tumor in your nose or sinuses.
How to Stop a Nosebleed
You’ve seen people twist toilet paper and stick it up their nose— maybe you have too— but that’s not the recommended way to stop a nosebleed. And although stopping a nosebleed is pretty straightforward, it sometimes takes the right touch to stop it quickly and prevent another. Follow these steps to stop a nosebleed:
- The first thing to do if you or someone else has a nosebleed is to follow the immortal words of author Douglas Adams— don't panic. Panicking and becoming nervous may actually cause you to bleed more. Not only that, but quick and calm treatment can make everything far less stressful.
- Sit down, and gently squeeze your nostrils shut between your thumb and index fingers. Hold for 10 minutes.
- Lean forward slightly and breathe through your mouth— this prevents you from swallowing any blood.
- After at least 10 minutes, check to see if the bleeding has stopped. Repeat if the bleeding continues.
- Apply ice or a cold compress to your nose to help stop the bleeding by constricting the blood vessels in your sinuses. If you have access to ice, it’s worth trying.
How Not to Stop a Nosebleed
Avoid inserting tissues, toilet paper, tampons, or gauze into your nostrils during a nosebleed. While it absorbs the blood flow, it can actually worsen your bleeding by irritating your nose further. It also doesn't provide enough pressure to stop the bleeding.
You main be tempted to lay back during those 10 minutes waiting for your nosebleed to stop, but you should instead remain upright and avoid laying down during a nosebleed.
Avoid blowing your nose or sniffing for several hours after a nosebleed— this prevents any irritation that may cause your nose to bleed again.
Is There a Connection Between Nasal Congestion and Nosebleeds?
Yes— there is. In fact, if you've been following our blog, then you may have noticed that many potential causes of nosebleeds can also cause nasal congestion. From above, these include:
- Conditions like a deviated septum or nasal polyps— which can cause nasal congestion by obstructing your nasal cavity.
- Common infections like the cold and flu— the extra irritation that comes with these conditions can make your nose more likely to start bleeding.
- Blowing your nose too hard when congested and when the blood vessels in your nose are already irritated can easily cause nosebleeds.
- Relying too much on decongestant nasal spray to treat congestion. Nasal sprays can put additional stress on those delicate blood vessels, causing to become irritated and bleed.
- Irritants from allergies— including pollen, pet dander, and dust— send your immune system into overdrive to expel them from your sinuses. Unfortunately, even minor irritation can also cause nosebleeds as well as a stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchiness.
- Picking your nose causes nosebleeds too, and when your sinuses aren’t clearing mucus consistently you get congested, which may prompt picking at nose crusties.
If you're prone to nosebleeds cold and flu or allergy seasons may increase how often you get a nosebleed, but there are easy ways prevent nosebleeds and nasal congestion.
How to Prevent Nosebleeds— Even When You're Congested
When it comes to a bloody nose, prevention is the best cure. Here are a few simple ways to prevent a bloody nose, even when your nose is all stuffed up.
- Always blow your nose gently. It may be tempting to blow your nose hard to clear things up faster— but it's best to resist this temptation for the sake of your nose.
- Don't pick your nose. Nose picking is one of the most common causes of nosebleeds. If you're feeling congested— or like there's something in your nose— gently blow your nose to remove the obstruction.
- Use a humidifier or ointment to prevent dryness. Nasal dryness can cause a nosebleed by making your nasal lining more sensitive. You can prevent this by using a humidifier, or a saline solution. You can also apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment inside your nostrils with a cotton swab. You can do this up to three times daily— just remember to be gentle.
- Don't smoke. Tobacco smoke can irritate your nasal passages and dry them out, making them more prone to bleeding.
- Don't overuse cold or allergy medications. These may be what you reach for the moment you start feeling stuffy, but try to resist that temptation too. These medications can also dry out your nose, and may even exacerbate your nosebleeds.
If you're prone to nosebleeds and you're feeling congested, it's more important than ever to find a gentle way to decongest. One of the best ways to do this is with SinuSonic.
SinuSonic relieves nasal congestion gently and naturally through the use of light pressure and acoustic vibrations. When you breathe through the device's unique flutter valve, it provides gentle resistance to help strengthen your breathing while those good vibrations clear your sinuses.
SinuSonic doesn't use any chemicals that will dry your nose out either— giving your nasal passages some much-needed relief.
When to Call Your Doctor
Nosebleeds are seldom dangerous, but it's important to know when something is wrong. Call your doctor if any of the following occur:
- You have frequent nosebleeds.
- You get nosebleeds after surgery— particularly sinus surgery.
- Your nosebleeds aren't associated with the common cold or other irritation that normally causes them.
If you experience any of the following, seek medical attention immediately:
- The bleeding does not stop after 20 minutes.
- Your nose is bleeding due to a broken nose.
- You are taking blood thinners like warfarin or heparin.
- Your nose is bleeding after a head injury.
Don't Let Your Nose Bleed You Dry
Nosebleeds can be an irritating and unsettling occurrence, even when you're not feeling stuffy and congested.
And while nasal congestion and nosebleeds are more closely related than many may realize, they're both easy to treat. And in the case of nosebleeds, they can even be prevented with a little extra care!
Want to know more about SinuSonic? Send us your questions! We'd love to hear from you.
Nall, Rachel. "How to Stop a Nosebleed: Tips, Prevention, and More." Healthline, Healthline Media, 4 Mar. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-a-nosebleed#how-to-stop-a-nosebleed.Philpott, Carl. "How to Blow Your Nose Properly." The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Nov. 2019, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/nov/24/how-to-blow-your-nose-properly.