The older you are, the more likely you are to suffer nosebleeds. In fact, kids aged between 2 and 10 and adults aged 50+ experience them more frequently than any other age group, making for a frustrating, messy, and oftentimes frightening experience.
But why are nosebleeds in the elderly so common, what can you do to prevent them, and are they anything to worry about?
What Causes Nosebleeds in the Elderly?
Firstly, let’s quickly put your mind at ease: Just because you have your first nosebleed as a senior, doesn’t mean you instantly have something to worry about.
The potential causes are the same for you as they are for everyone else, and more often than not, they are completely harmless.
It’s scary to have your first nosebleed as an adult and it’s completely normal for your mind to jump to conclusions like cancer and other life-threatening conditions, but the odds are still very much in your favor.
So, before you panic, think about the following potential causes:
Many seniors retreat from active lifestyles and start spending more time indoors as they get older. They sit under the air conditioning or heating and are constantly surrounded by a dry and synthetic atmosphere.
This can have a detrimental effect on the nasal lining, making it dry, cracked, and exposed to ruptures.
Think about how dry and damaged your skin becomes during the winter months, and now imagine the same thing happening inside your nose, where you have fewer protective layers.
Seniors are more likely to take medications that thin the blood, including aspirin and warfarin. These medications can trigger excessive nosebleeds and they may continue for more than 15 minutes, at which point you should seek emergency care.
Allergies and Infections
It’s rare for allergies to appear later in life and if you suffer from an issue now there’s a good chance that it existed before. However, such incidents are not unheard of and it’s possible to experience adult-onset allergies resulting from a change in your environment or your immune system.
Such allergies can make you more exposed to nosebleeds and these often occur indirectly. You may be sneezing more, blowing your nose more, or using sprays that irritate the lining of your nose.
The same is true for infections. Think about how many times you blow and wipe your nose when you have a head cold. If you reach a point where the outside of your nose is red raw and painful to the touch, imagine how much damage has been done on the inside!
You could be one sneeze, blow, or wipe away from a nosebleed and while this will feel much worse in the context of a cold or sinus infection, it’s usually brief and not serious.
As you age, your fingernails and toenails don’t regenerate as quickly as they once did. They become thick and brittle, turning them into lethal weapons when you start digging around in your nose.
It just takes one misplaced pick or jagged nail to scratch the delicate lining in your nose. There are lots of little blood vessels in there and they don’t have the protection afforded by the rest of your body, so they rupture and bleed quite easily.
Keep your nails trim and moist to reduce the risk of nosebleeds. You should also refrain from picking your nose whenever possible. Experts recommend using saline sprays, steam treatments, and humidifiers to keep your mucus moist and prevent the build-up of hard and pickable boogers.
We hate to end this article on such a disgusting mental image, but at least you now understand more about what causes nosebleeds in the elderly and how to avoid them!