Whether it's a boxer in the ring, a kid who took a ball to the nose, or an office worker who collided with a door, nosebleeds are always alarming and often painful.
Vast amounts of blood circulate through capillaries in the nose, so bleeding can be copious when blood vessels break. Nosebleeds can also occur when your mucous membranes become irritated by a cold or winter's dry indoor heat. People with high blood pressure or atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) are especially vulnerable to nosebleeds, as are those taking certain medications, such as anticoagulants, anti-inflammatories, and aspirin. Nose blowing, nose picking, excessive sneezing, allergies, and foreign objects in the nose can also prompt it to bleed.
Whatever the cause, you can do many things to stop most nosebleeds.
Nosebleeds can be serious. Head for the ER if:
• You've applied pressure for 10 to 15 minutes, but your nose still bleeds.
• Your nosebleed results from a head injury. This may indicate other skull or facial injuries. Bleeding that appears thin and watery could indicate the presence of cerebral fluid.
• You have been diagnosed with atherosclerosis or high blood pressure, and your nose has bled for more than 10 minutes.
• You find yourself bleeding from the back of the nose.
Nosebleeds can be fatal if they go on long enough. In rare instances, continuous bleeding may indicate the presence of a growth.
Finally, if your nosebleeds become more frequent and don't seem to be associated with a cold or an irritation of the mucous membranes, schedule an appointment with your physician.
Mark Baldree, M.D., is an otolaryngologist in Phoenix. He is a staff member in the division of otolaryngology in the department of surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix and Scottsdale Healthcare Shea in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Angelo Dundee, of Weston, Florida, is a boxing trainer who has been a trainer for 15 World Heavyweight boxing champions, including Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.
John A. Henderson, M.D., was formerly an assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.
Alvin Katz, M.D., is an otolaryngologist and surgeon director of the Manhattan Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Hospital and New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, both in New York City. He is past president of the American Rhinologic Society.
Gilbert Levitt, M.D., is a retired otolaryngologist and former clinical instructor of otolaryngology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
Jerold J. Principato, M.D., is a clinical professor of otolaryngology in the department of surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. He is an otolaryngologist in Bethesda, Maryland.