When Is a Bloody Nose an Emergency?

A bloody nose is usually nothing to worry about. Most bloody noses have minor causes and can be stopped at home. Still, there are situations where a bloody nose is a medical emergency that should be tended to right away.

This article will discuss some of the common causes of a bloody nose, and when to seek emergency care.

When Is a Bloody Nose an Emergency?

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Common Causes of Nosebleeds

Bloody noses are common. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

A combination of these factors is often to blame. For example, you are more likely to get a bloody nose after an accidental bump if you are dehydrated or have sinus problems.

More Serious Causes of Nosebleeds

Some nosebleeds are more serious. It is important to know when a nosebleed becomes an emergency. Seek medical care at once if your nosebleed meets any of these criteria.

Your Nose Bleeds Nonstop for 20 Minutes

Most healthy people should be able to stop a bloody nose at home in 20 minutes or less. Try leaning slightly forward and gently pinching your nostrils together. This helps the blood clot. If you have a bleeding disorder it may take longer.

If you have a condition like hemophilia, which causes problems with blood clotting, talk to your healthcare provider. If you are on blood-thinning medications, you should also seek medical help.

You Are Losing Too Much Blood

Excessive blood loss can make a bloody nose an emergency. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to judge how much blood you've lost. A few tablespoons can look like a lot. If you are gushing blood, call 911.

If pinching does not stop the dripping, use a container to catch the blood. A measuring cup is ideal because it will help a medical professional know how much blood you've lost.

Blood loss is most concerning if you have a history of blood diseases such as hemophilia or anemia. When you are anemic, you don't have enough red blood cells.

Prolonged nosebleeds are also a concern if you are taking medications that thin the blood, such as:

Rapid blood loss can cause anemia, which is a lack of red blood cell volume. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Pale skin color
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room at once.

Your Bloody Nose Was Caused by Severe Trauma

Trauma, especially a blow to the head, can make a bloody nose an emergency.

Minor bumps or falls that cause a bloody nose are probably not serious. Major incidents like falling down stairs, sports accidents, and fights can cause a bloody nose that becomes a medical emergency.

A severe injury to the nose may swell and make breathing difficult. You may have a broken nose, a concussion (brain injury), or a spinal cord injury. It is always best to seek emergency medical care after a major accident.

You Have High Blood Pressure

A bloody nose that is caused by high blood pressure is an emergency. These nosebleeds happen without any particular trigger.

If you get a nosebleed and you have a history of high blood pressure, contact your healthcare provider. This is especially important if you also have a headache, chest pain, or faintness.

You Can Taste Blood

Bloody noses towards the front of the nose are usually less severe. These bleeds can usually be stopped with pressure.

If you can taste blood, you may have a posterior bleed. A posterior nosebleed comes from the back of the nose.

Posterior nosebleeds are often more severe. They cannot be stopped by pinching your nostrils. They also tend to be from major blood vessels. Seek emergency care at once of you have this type of nosebleed.

Summary

Bloody noses are usually not serious. Most can be stopped if you lean forward and gently pinch your nostrils.

In some cases, a bloody nose can be an emergency. If your nose bleeds for longer than 20 minutes or you lose a lot much blood, get emergency help. You should also seek emergency care if you were in a serious accident, have high blood pressure, or can taste blood.

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7 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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Additional Reading
  • MedlinePlus. Nosebleed. Updated September 1, 2021.