Nosebleeds are not usually a sign of anything serious. They're common, particularly in children, and most can be easily treated at home.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- a child under 2 years old has had a nosebleed
- you have regular nosebleeds
- you have symptoms of anaemia – such as a faster heartbeat (palpitations), shortness of breath and skin that is paler than normal for you
- you have a nosebleed and you're taking a medicine that helps prevent blood clots, such as warfarin
- you have a nosebleed and you have a condition that means your blood cannot clot properly, such as haemophilia
The GP might want to test you for haemophilia or for other conditions like anaemia.
Immediate action required: Go to A&E if:
You have a nosebleed and:
- your nosebleed lasts longer than 10 to 15 minutes
- the bleeding seems excessive
- you're swallowing a large amount of blood that makes you vomit
- the bleeding started after a blow to your head
- you're feeling weak or dizzy
- you're having difficulty breathing
Causes of a nosebleed
The inside of the nose is easy to damage and that's when nosebleeds happen. This can be caused by:
- picking your nose
- blowing your nose too hard
- the inside of your nose being too dry (maybe because of a change in air temperature)
Nosebleeds that need medical attention can come from deeper inside the nose and usually affect adults. They can be caused by:
- an injury or broken nose
- conditions that affect the blood vessels or how the blood clots
- certain medicines, like warfarin
Sometimes the cause of a nosebleed is unknown.
Certain people are more likely to getting nosebleeds, including:
- adults over 45 years old
- pregnant women
- people with high blood pressure
How to stop a nosebleed yourself
If you have a nosebleed, you should:
- sit down and lean forward, with your head tilted forward and your mouth open
- pinch your nose just above your nostrils for 10 to 15 minutes
- breathe through your mouth
Holding an icepack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) on the top of the nose may help reduce the blood flow. But the evidence to show it works is not very strong.
Treatment for nosebleeds
If you have a nosebleed and a doctor can see where the blood is coming from, they may use a stick with a chemical on it to stop the bleeding. This is pushed into the nostril to seal the area.
If this is not possible, they might pack your nose with ribbon gauze or sponge, to stop the bleeding. You may need to stay in hospital for a day or two.
When your nosebleed stops, a doctor may prescribe an antiseptic cream to use inside your nose. This stops crusting, or scabs forming. Check the cream's ingredients first, as it may not be suitable if you have a peanut or soya allergy.
When a nosebleed stops
After a nosebleed, to reduce the chance of another nosebleed, try not to do the following for 24 hours:
- blow your nose
- pick your nose
- drink hot drinks or alcohol
- do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise
- pick any scabs
- lie down flat
Page last reviewed: 5 December 2023
Next review due: 5 December 2026