While alarming, nosebleeds are usually not a sign of anything serious. There are two types of nosebleeds, anterior and posterior. Anterior nosebleeds are the most common and are caused by bleeding in the front part of the nose. The bleeding from a posterior nosebleed comes from an artery in the back portion of the nose. The most common cause for a nosebleed is trauma. This can be trauma to the outside of the nose such as a blow to the head or trauma to the inside of the nose such as irritation from a cold. Conditions such as hemophilia (inability to clot), abnormal blood vessels or high blood pressure can lead to an increase in nosebleeds. Nosebleeds occur most often in the winter months in cold, dry climates.
Bleeding from only one nostril is the most common symptom of a nosebleed. Usually a nosebleed from both nostrils is due to a heavy flow from one nostril, the blood has just backed up and overflown into the other. If blood drips down the back of the throat into the stomach you may spit up or vomit blood. Excessive blood loss can cause a feeling of dizziness, light-headedness and fainting.
More often than not, a nosebleed can be easily controlled at home. Sit up straight, lean your head forward and pinch the nostrils together with your thumb and index finger for 10 minutes. Try not to swallow any blood as it will cause you to vomit. Once the bleeding has stopped, try not to blow your nose for the next 24 hours and avoid dry air.
If this home remedy does not stop the bleeding, you will have to visit the doctor. If the bleeding is coming from a blood vessel at the front of the nose, your doctor can easily seal up the opening with silver nitrate in a process called cauterizing. If the blood vessel is further back, nasal packing may be needed. This involves packing the nasal cavity with gauze, which puts pressure on vessel and will stop the bleeding. The packing is left in place for 24 to 72 hours.
If the bleeding is coming from the back of the nose (a posterior nosebleed) a special type of packing is needed. The patient usually requires hospitalization, a sedative and pain medication. The packing is left in place for 48 to 72 hours. If the bleeding still does not stop, surgery may be needed.