DEAR DOCTOR K: I get frequent nosebleeds throughout the year. What should I do when I get one? Also, are nosebleeds dangerous?
DEAR READER: Nosebleeds can be frightening, but they are actually very common. They are rarely serious or life-threatening, and usually can be stopped with some local pressure and a little patience.
Nosebleeds are often caused by trauma, such as nose picking or forceful blowing of the nose. In cold and dry winter air, the membranes of the nose get dried out and are more likely to bleed if they are injured.
If you are otherwise healthy, it is probably safe for you to treat your nosebleed at home. Done correctly, simple first-aid measures should stop an uncomplicated nosebleed within minutes.
Here are Doctor K’s six steps for treating a nosebleed:
• Sit up, so your head is above the level of your heart; lean forward slightly and breathe through your mouth.
• With your thumb and index finger, pinch the entire front of your nose, just above your nostrils and below the hard, bony base, and hold for five minutes. (And remember to breathe through your mouth.)
• At the same time, use your other hand to apply an ice pack to the bridge of your nose. The cold temperature can slow blood flow. Keep the ice pack on for 15 minutes, even if the bleeding stops.
• After you have pinched your nose for five minutes, release it to see if your nose is still bleeding.
• If your nose is still bleeding, pinch it for an additional 10 minutes.
• Release your nose again. If you are still bleeding, seek emergency medical help.
Contact your doctor if you also have nasal stuffiness that doesn’t clear up or a foul-smelling nasal discharge.
Here are Doctor K’s six steps for preventing future nosebleeds:
• Don’t pick your nose.
• Be gentle whenever you blow your nose.
• Don’t smoke. Also try to avoid secondhand smoke.
• Use a humidifier if your indoor climate is dry during the winter months.
• Use a nonprescription saline nasal spray to moisturize the inside of your nose.
• Apply a dab of petroleum jelly to the inside of your nostrils before bedtime.
Nothing is guaranteed in life, but following these simple suggestions will reduce your risk of getting nosebleeds and increase your success rate in treating them.