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What Causes Frequent Bloody Noses?

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Updated August 30, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What Causes Frequent Bloody Noses?
Answer:

My kids get frequent bloody noses, sometimes there is a precipitating reason such as bumping their nose or falling down but often the bleeding seems to occur spontaneously. Sometimes they wake up in the morning and there is blood on their pillows and dried blood around their nose or face. So what causes this?

Causes of Frequent Bloody Noses

Some people are just more prone to developing frequent bloody noses, especially under certain circumstances such as dry weather. The following conditions or illnesses make developing a bloody nose more likely:

Common Causes of Recurring Nosebleeds

  • dry mucous membranes caused by a lack of humidity in the air or dehydration
  • allergies
  • frequent picking or rubbing of the nose
  • blowing your nose too hard
  • infections
  • colds or upper respiratory infections

Less Common and Rare Causes of Recurring Nosebleeds

  • trauma to the nose
  • high blood pressure
  • taking medications which thin the blood such as aspirin
  • diseases which interfere with blood clotting
  • hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT)
  • tumors in the nose or sinuses
  • sinus barotrauma
  • foreign object nasal obstruction

Children probably get frequent bloody noses more than adults because they are more likely to pick or rub their noses. Sometimes there is an underlying reason for this such as allergies or other irritations.

Preventing Frequent Bloody Noses

Not all bloody noses can be prevented but if you are experiencing frequent bloody noses there are a few things you can do to decrease the severity or frequency of them.

  • Use a cool mist humidifier. If possible place it somewhere near your bed while you sleep.
  • Try an over-the-counter saline nasal spray, but be cautious when using any nasal spray as the tip may damage blood vessels or areas inside the nostrils that have scabbed over. To avoid this don't insert the tip too far up the nose and try to angle the bottle towards the center of your nose (towards the septum).
  • You may wish to try a neti pot, again be cautious about how you insert the tip into the nostrils. Avoid using vigorous sprays or bulb syringes.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Treat underlying conditions such as allergies.
  • Try not to rub or pick your nose. Clip children's fingernails to minimize any damage they might do by picking at their nose.

When to See a Doctor

You should go to the emergency room or call 911 if you are unable to stop an active nosebleed after about 20 minutes, or if the bleeding is severe. For tips on stopping a nosebleed read: How to Stop a Nosebleed. You should also see a physician if you have frequent nosebleeds that do not resolve despite measures to prevent them. A qualified doctor can rule out underlying disorders such as tumors or abnormal growths, or a disorder that prevents your blood from clotting properly.

Treatments for Frequent Bloody Noses

Managing the underlying cause of bloody noses is likely to be the most effective way to keep them from recurring. In some cases this approach may need to be combined with other treatments. There is limited research on the treatment of recurrent bloody noses. However, The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery recently released a study reviewing different treatment options. This research shows that chemical cauterization, or surgical ligation or embolization, were most likely to keep bloody noses from recurring on a long term basis. Patients who underwent these procedures, aimed at achieving vascular control, had better outcomes and shorter hospital stays than patients who had bloody noses treated with nondissolvable packing, for example.

Sources:

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Nosebleeds. Accessed: August 28,2013 from http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/Nosebleeds.cfm

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Development of a Therapeutic Algorithm for Optimal Nosebleed Management. Accessed: August 28,2013 from http://www.entnet.org/press/Aug2013JournalRelease.cfm

ENT.org. Multiple Problems Associated With Frequent Nosebleeds. Accessed: August 28, 2013 from http://www.ent.org/frequent-nose-bleeds/

Medscape. Nosebleed. Accessed: August 28,2013 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003106.htm

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