Unless nosebleeds are a frequent occurrence for you, there's a good chance you experience a moment of panic as soon as your nose erupts.
It's natural. You're bleeding from your face, after all.
The good news is that the vast majority of nosebleeds happen as a result of dry air, nose picking, and even vigorous nose blowing. They are innocuous and will resolve without any medical intervention.
But there are rare occasions in which nosebleeds can indicate something serious, such as when you're bleeding heavily and it's showing no signs of stopping.
When Should You Go To The ER For A Nosebleed?
Most nosebleeds resolve within 30 minutes and the majority are over within 10. The blood clots, the bleeding stops, and you can continue with your day.
But if the blood is still flowing after 30 minutes, it could indicate a more serious problem and you should seek emergency medical care.
Of course, the cause of the bleeding and the extent to which you’re bleeding will also dictate when it's time to seek help.
If you’re bleeding heavily after 10 minutes, don’t wait for the 20/30 minute timeframe and visit the emergency room straight away.
On the flip side, if your nosebleed was barely a trickle for 10 minutes and then became little more than spotting on tissue paper, only to trickle again when you picked/blew your nose, you probably don't need emergency care.
If you interfere with your nose after a nosebleed, you may remove the blood clot and trigger another nosebleed. This is not the same as having one continuous nosebleed for 30+ minutes.
The following could also indicate a medical emergency:
You are Struggling to Breathe
You should seek emergency medical care if you are struggling to breathe.
There is a caveat to this, though.
It seems that many nosebleed sufferers believe you should tilt your nose back when it starts bleeding. It's a belief that comes straight off the playground, and one that some still believe as adults. The idea is that you're somehow sending the blood back into your body and thus preventing serious blood loss, but it's absurd and dangerous.
If you’re tilting your head back, not only will you be sending that blood into your stomach where it could lead to nausea and vomiting, but you'll also be impeding your breathing.
Instead, tilt your head forward and gently pinch your nose just above the nostrils. Hold this position for at least 10 minutes and don't be tempted to release your grip so that you can check.
If you can breathe freely after tilting your head forward and letting the blood flow out, you have less to worry about.
You Have Been in a Car Accident
If your nose is bleeding following a car accident or other serious trauma, seek medical care immediately.
It could be that you have just hit your nose and ruptured the delicate blood vessels. It could also indicate a break, a more serious problem but not necessarily one that warrants being blue-lit to the hospital.
However, there is also a chance you have experienced severe head trauma, and that's not something you can afford to ignore.
You Have Other Symptoms
A trickle of crimson accompanied by minor nasal irritation could mean you have damaged your nose by picking it or exposing it to dry air. But if you have chest pain, a severe headache, and/or vision disturbances, there could be something more serious at play and you should seek medical assistance.
You Have Pre-existing Issues
If you have a bleeding disorder, take blood-thinning medications, or have an illness that could worsen with heavy and/or frequent nosebleeds, seek medical attention.
When Should I Seek Help for My Child's Nosebleeds?
Nosebleeds are very common in young children. Not only are their noses more prone to ruptures, but a child's fingernails aren't as well-groomed and can easily nick the delicate blood vessels inside the nasal septum.
If your child has a nosebleed, ask them to sit down and lean forward and then pinch the soft part of their nose. Hold them in this position for 10 minutes until the bleeding stops.
Prevent further nosebleeds by trimming their fingernails and applying petroleum jelly to the inside of their nose during very dry weather.
If the nosebleeds are frequent and don't have an immediately obvious cause, speak with your doctor. If they experience heavy bleeding, or their nosebleed won't stop after following the above procedure, take them to the emergency room.
What Do You Do When Your Nose Won't Stop Bleeding?
If your nosebleed is bleeding heavily and showing no signs of stopping, call your local emergency number for advice.
Although it can be difficult, it's important to try and stay calm as you sit down, lean forward, and pinch your nose.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is to keep checking their noses to see if the bleeding has stopped. They relieve the pressure and start poking around, but that inevitably makes it worse.
Be patient, keep the pressure applied, and if the bleeding has stopped, don't be tempted to pick your nose or blow your nose afterward. You should also refrain from taking a hot shower or bath as the steam could loosen the clot and start the bleeding all over again.
There are a few tricks that doctors can use to stop nosebleeds. Some of these can be performed at home, including the use of Nampons, which will plug your nose and promote clotting.
When Should I See a Doctor About My Nosebleeds?
If you suffer from regular nosebleeds, speak with a healthcare professional.
Even if the bleeds aren't severe, it's still worth speaking with someone who can assess your situation and rule out any serious issues.
If nothing else, they will help you to manage your nosebleeds and could prescribe something to reduce the frequency at which they occur.