How to Stop a Bloody Nose

Having a bloody nose (also known as epistaxis) can be unnerving, but in most cases nosebleeds are easy to stop and rarely serious. You'll want to know how to stop a bloody nose right away, but it's important to do it properly and safely.

There are misconceptions about the right way to stop a nosebleed (such as leaning backward) that can actually be dangerous. Here's what to do if your nose—or someone else's—starts bleeding.

Causes of a Bloody Nose

The most common type of nosebleeds are called anterior nosebleeds. These start on the nasal septum, which separates the two sides of the nose.

The septum contains blood vessels that can be damaged easily by scraping them with a fingernail (picking your nose) or from vigorous nose blowing. Anterior nosebleeds can also be caused by dry, heated air or external trauma (such as being hit in the nose with a ball).

A posterior nosebleed originates in the deepest part of the nose. Blood will flow down the back of throat. These are rare, but more serious, and more common in people with high blood pressure, older adults, and in people who sustain injuries to the face or nose.

Other causes of nosebleeds include:

  • Medications that prevent blood clotting, such as warfarin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • Genetic or inherited clotting disorders, such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease, or hemorrhagic telangiectasia, a disease involving blood vessel growths inside the nose
  • Head injuries
  • Benign or malignant tumors

When adults get nosebleeds, it could be an indicator of a more severe medical problem, especially if they are frequent. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have gotten bloody noses, especially without physical trauma.

Around 60% of people will experience a bloody nose in their lifetime. Nosebleeds are most common in children from 2 to 10 years old and in adults age 50 to 80.

How to Stop a Bloody Nose

Fortunately, basic first aid measures are usually all that's needed to stop a bloody nose. Here's what to do if you experience one:

Lean Forward, Not Back

One of the biggest myths in first aid is that you should lean back with a bloody nose, but the best thing to do is to lean forward. The blood needs to go somewhere, and if the person leans back or lies down, it will most likely go down their throat.

Blood could get into the windpipe, causing a blocked airway. Blood may go into the stomach and irritate its lining, possibly causing the person to vomit.

Pinch the Nose (Correctly)

Most people instinctively pinch the nose during a nosebleed, but there's a right way to do it and a wrong way.

Pinch the person's nose just below the bony bridge. Don't just pinch the nostrils closed. Your fingers should be on the bone as well as the soft tissue.

If there is still blood flowing, adjust your grip. There should not be visible bleeding while you are holding the nose. When you're doing it correctly, the person should be able to breathe through the nose while you're pinching the blood flow off.

Pinching the nose properly stops or slows the blood flow to allow a clot to form and stop the bleeding. Hold the nose for at least five minutes. Do not let go to check for bleeding until at least the first five minutes are up. If you can, keep the pressure on for longer.

After five minutes, release the pressure to see if the bleeding has stopped. If not, pinch again, but keep it up for 10 minutes this time. Remember: Don't let go to check for bleeding until the 10 minutes are up. If bleeding doesn't stop after that time, repeat for another 10 minutes if necessary.

Stay Upright

Always sit up straight when your nose is bleeding, and never lie on your back. As with tilting your head backward, this can cause the blood to go down your throat into your stomach and potentially cause choking or vomiting.

Keeping your head above your heart also reduces blood pressure in the veins of your nose, which discourages bleeding.

Additional Tips

Other things you can do when someone has a nosebleed include:

  • Place ice or a chemical cold pack over the bridge of the nose. This can constrict the blood vessels and help stop bleeding. Ice isn't going to stop a bloody nose by itself, but it may help.
  • Spray a nasal decongestant in the nostril where the bleeding is occurring and then proceed to pinch the nose as suggested.
  • Avoid putting anything up the nose to absorb the blood, such as a a tissue or a cotton ball.
  • Remain calm (or keep your child calm if they are the one with the bloody nose).

After the Nosebleed Stops

Once you have stopped the bleeding, it's important to let the blood vessels constrict so the bleeding doesn't start again. If you were able to stop the initial bleeding within 10 to 15 minutes and your nose starts bleeding again, repeat the steps again.

Don't blow, rub, or put anything inside your nose, and do not bend over or lift anything heavy.

If the Bleeding Won't Stop

If a nosebleed doesn't stop after the second or third try to apply pressure, it's time to go to the emergency room.

If the bleeding is rapid and the person is losing a lot of blood (more than a cup), if the blood is going down the back of the throat, if the person has vomited up blood, or if at any time they feel lightheaded, dizzy, or weak, call 911.

Emergency Signs

A bloody nose is a medical emergency when:

  • It hasn't stopped after 20 minutes.
  • You've lost more than a cup of blood.
  • You can taste blood in your mouth.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • The nosebleed was caused by trauma to the face.

How to Prevent Nosebleeds

If you or your child are prone to getting bloody noses, here are ways to prevent them:

  • Don't pick your nose.
  • Blow your nose gently when you have a cold or allergies.
  • Run a humidifier if you live in a dry climate or during the winter months.
  • Moisturize the inside of your nose with a non-prescription saline nasal spray or a dab of petroleum jelly on the inside of your nostrils.
  • Wear a seatbelt in the car and headgear to protect your face during contact sports to avoid facial trauma.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking dries out the nasal membranes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes a bloody nose?

    Most nosebleeds are caused by picking the nose, dry air, or strong nose-blowing; all of these damage the tiny vessels inside the nose, causing them to bleed. Causes of more serious nosebleeds include a head injury, a genetic disease, or, in some cases, a tumor.

  • When should I worry about a nosebleed?

    If the bleeding continues for more than 20 minutes, there is excessive bleeding (more than a cup), or you have swallowed blood, you should go to the emergency room or call 911.

  • What should I do after a nosebleed?

    After a nosebleed, you should avoid blowing your nose for at least two days. If you have a history of high blood pressure, it may be worth checking your blood pressure. Try not to place tissues into your nose, avoid heavy lifting, and do not lie flat.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, ENT Health. Nosebleeds.

  3. Nemours Foundation. Kids Health. Nosebleeds.

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By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.