What Causes a Nose Bleed?

By Viola Horne

A sudden nosebleed can be quite frightening. The warm trickle, then the bright red drops can cause alarm in anyone, young or old. Occasional nosebleeds can be quite common since the capillaries in the nostrils and sinuses are thin and close to the surface. Frequent nosebleeds, however, can be a sign of a more serious illness.

A mother examining the nosebleed of her son (8-10)

A sudden nosebleed can be quite frightening. The warm trickle, then the bright red drops can cause alarm in anyone, young or old. Occasional nosebleeds can be quite common since the capillaries in the nostrils and sinuses are thin and close to the surface. Frequent nosebleeds, however, can be a sign of a more serious illness.

Dry Air

Woman hiking in desert

Warm, dry air is the most common cause of a bloody nose. Arid climates and forced indoor heating are the main culprits. Dry air causes the nasal tissue to dehydrate and crack, breaking capillaries and blood vessels in the nose and sinus cavity. Nose-breathers have more frequent bloody noses than mouth-breathers since the air is continuously flowing through the nasal cavity.

Living in a more humid climate, humidifying dry indoor air, and using a saline nasal spray can all help deter nosebleeds in susceptible individuals. If nosebleeds occur at night, occasionally applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the inside of the nostril may help.

Picking

Girl holding finger to face

Another cause of a nosebleed is picking. While not a polite subject, nose-picking is very common. The nasal cavity secretes mucous which can dry inside the nostrils, causing irritation. Removing the dried secretions can rip the delicate tissue in the nostril and produce a heavy flow of blood from the nose. Picking is the most common cause of nosebleeds in children.

Injury

Boy catching foot ball

Of course, any kind of head injury can cause an instant nosebleed. From a swift punch to the face, to a fall or other blunt impact, bleeding from the nose is very common in any type of head injury. Football and soccer players have frequent nosebleeds from direct impact to the face, and the first sign of head trauma is often a nosebleed. A nosebleed after a head trauma may indicate a skull fracture and should be considered a medical emergency.

Allergies and Upper Respiratory Infections

Woman blowing nose

Allergy suffers may also experience frequent nosebleeds. When the nasal tissues are exposed to allergens, they may swell as the body sends more blood to deal with the offending "intruder." The same is true with a cold or other upper respiratory infection. Frequent vigorous blowing also subjects the blood vessels to strong vibrations, causing them to break and bleed.

Foreign Objects

Boy at doctors office

Occasionally, a bloody nose can be caused by a foreign object in the nose. A deviated septum, the bony cartilage that separates the two nostrils, can also cause a bloody nose. Seek medical attention if a foreign object is suspected. Surgery may be required to correct a deviated septum.

Serious Illness

Woman with nosebleed

Rarely, frequent and heavy nosebleeds can be attributed to a serious illness such as high blood pressure, leukemia or a bleeding disorder. If nosebleeds are very frequent (more than once a week), profuse, or hard to stop, seek medical attention to rule out underlying issues.

References

About the Author

When not working in her family-owned food and bar business, Viola Horne can almost always be found with a cookbook in one hand and a whisk in the other. Horne never tires of entertaining family and friends with both comfort food and unusual delicacies such as garlic cheese smashed potatoes and banana bacon pancakes.

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