You might not give a second thought to nosebleeds in your everyday life, but then your child starts getting them frequently, and you start to wonder: What causes nosebleeds? How can you stop a nosebleed? Is it possible to prevent nosebleeds? By understanding the answers to these frequently asked questions about nosebleeds, you can take effective action—and know when it’s time to see a doctor. What causes nosebleeds? Most nosebleeds result from the rupture of a small blood vessel just inside one of the nostrils, usually along the septum—the fibrous wall of tissue that divides the nose into two halves. But what causes these vessels to rupture? Some possible factors include: Allergies Blowing your nose too forcefully Broken nose or other facial trauma Decongestant nasal sprays when used for more than a couple of days at a time Home oxygen therapy delivered by cannula Nose picking or sticking an object into the nose Prolonged exposure to dry, heated air—or, conversely, to very cold air Sinusitis (sinus infection) Generally, any situation or activity that can injure or dry out the nasal tissues can lead to a nosebleed. Can nosebleeds be prevented? Most common, minor nosebleeds can, indeed, be prevented. Try these tips to keep your nasal passages from drying out and becoming susceptible to nosebleeds: Apply water-soluble nasal gel to the septum once a day, preferably at bedtime. Avoid forcefully blowing your nose; instead, blow gently while holding your mouth open. Avoid using decongestant nasal sprays. Don’t insert objects into the nostril. Don’t pick or scratch at the inside of your nasal passages. Use a humidifier canister on your home oxygen concentrator. Use a whole-house or bedroom humidifier during the winter months to raise the relative humidity of the air inside your home. Use saline nasal spray several times a day to keep tissues moist. How can I stop a nosebleed? It’s usually possible to stop a nosebleed within 10 minutes, though many people use outdated information about how to stop a nosebleed. For instance, don’t pack the bleeding nostril with gauze or tissue. It’s not effective at promoting clotting, and when you remove the gauze you likely will re-injure the vessel and cause it to bleed some more. Also, don’t tilt your head back or lie down. Either of these positions can cause you to swallow the blood, which can trigger stomach upset. Here’s the right way to stop a nosebleed: Use some tissue or a damp washcloth to catch any blood droplets falling from your nostril. Stand or sit up and lean slightly forward. Gently pinch your nostrils closed and breath naturally through your mouth. Hold pressure on the nostrils for a full 10 minutes—be sure to time it. After 10 minutes, release pressure from the nostrils and see if your nose is still bleeding. If you’re still bleeding, repeat the procedure again. If the bleeding won’t stop after 20 to 30 minutes, seek medical attention. After you’ve stopped the nosebleed, take extra care when blowing your nose for the next several hours. If you blow forcefully, you might re-injure the same vessel and cause it to start bleeding again. Can a nosebleed be dangerous? The vast majority of nosebleeds do not represent any severe threat to your health. However, on rare occasion a nosebleed can signal a serious medical condition that requires emergency medical attention. Call 9-1-1 in these situations: Bleeding is accompanied by head or facial trauma. Bleeding is excessive or won’t stop within 20 to 30 minutes. You take anticoagulants (blood thinners) and the bleeding won’t stop. Your nose is deformed or misshapen. The nosebleed is accompanied by bleeding from the gums or ears, or if there’s other bruising or bodily trauma involved. The person with the nosebleed has hemophilia, which prevents his or her blood from clotting normally. You experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or a change of mental status (fainting, delirium). You should call your doctor if you experience nosebleeds after starting a new medication, especially if it’s an anticoagulant. Also check with your doctor if you have frequent nosebleeds. Fortunately, home remedies and preventive measures will take care of most nosebleeds. But never hesitate to seek your physician’s advice if you think your nosebleeds could be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition.