Headache and Nosebleed: A Guide

Medically Reviewed By Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP

Many conditions can cause a headache and nosebleed at the same time. Examples include migraine, sinusitis, and some injuries. Headaches and nosebleeds can be mild. However, they can be concerning and sometimes related to underlying health conditions.

Talk with a doctor if you have questions about headaches or nosebleeds.

This article explains how headaches and nosebleeds can be linked, including possible causes of both at the same time, when to see a doctor, and treatment options.

How headaches and nosebleeds link 

Someone holds a white handkerchief to their nose.
Serena Burroughs/Stocksy United

Headaches and nosebleeds can be unrelated and appear together by coincidence.

However, the two symptoms can also occur together as a result of the same underlying medical condition or environmental factor.

Respiratory infections

Nosebleeds Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source and headaches Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source may develop if you have a respiratory infection, such as a common cold, flu, or COVID-19.

Some respiratory infection symptoms, such as coughing, nasal congestion, and dry nasal passages, contribute to nosebleeds. Frequent nose blowing or using some nasal sprays may also irritate the nasal passages, leading to bleeding.

Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of upper respiratory infections.

Deviated septum

A deviated septum is when the nasal septum — the wall of bone and cartilage between the nostrils — is off-center. A deviated septum can make one nasal passage narrower than the other.

In severe cases, a deviated septum can disrupt airflow through the nose, leading to Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source symptoms such as breathing difficulties, congestion, and headaches. 

A deviated septum may also affect air pressure in the nasal area, possibly causing irritation and nosebleeds.

Sinusitis

The sinuses are four air-filled cavities in the bones around the face.

Sinusitis is when these cavities become inflamed and the sinus passages become blocked. This may cause headaches due to pressure buildup and swelling.

Nose blowing, wiping, or sneezing due to feelings of congestion may also irritate the nasal passages, causing nosebleeds.

Read more about sinusitis and sinus infections.

Very high blood pressure

High blood pressure doesn’t usually Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source cause noticeable symptoms. However, severely high blood pressure or a hypertensive crisis may lead to a headache and nosebleed. 

Severe high blood pressure can lead Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to brain hyperperfusion. This is when too much blood flows into the brain, leading to symptoms such as headaches.

Nosebleeds may also occur Trusted Source JAMA Peer reviewed journal Go to source when the blood vessels in the nose are exposed to high blood pressure, making them more likely to rupture and bleed. 

See more about high blood pressure, including its effects, causes, and treatment.

Migraine

Migraine is a headache disorder that may also cause Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source nosebleeds.

However, researchers are unclear on how migraine develops and affects the body. More studies are needed to explain how migraine and nosebleeds are linked.

A 2013 study Trusted Source Wiley Peer reviewed journal Go to source suggested that migraine is linked to nosebleeds in people with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). HHT is a genetic condition in which the blood vessels do not develop typically.

Participants in the study reported experiencing migraine and nosebleeds at the same time. Researchers also reported that people who had more frequent nosebleeds had more frequent migraine episodes.

Read more about migraine symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Other possible causes

Other factors and conditions that may cause a headache and nosebleed together include:

Talk with a doctor if you have concerns about the cause of your symptoms.

In pregnancy

During pregnancy, increased hormone levels can affect circulation and blood volume in the moist inner tissues of the nose, known as the nasal mucosa. This can lead to Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source headaches and nosebleeds.

In particular, estrogen may cause congestion and inflammation, making the nasal blood vessels more fragile and likely to bleed. Hormonal fluctuations can also make nasal tissues more sensitive and prone to dryness, increasing the risk of nosebleeds. 

Headaches and nosebleeds are usual symptoms of pregnancy. However, if they are frequent or severe, talk with a doctor to rule out any severe conditions.

In children

Frequent nosebleeds are common Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source in children and mostly go away with age. Researchers suggest that most cases of frequent nosebleeds in children aren’t linked to any serious health conditions.

Headaches are also common in children and are usually due to mild conditions.

However, talk with a child’s medical team if the child has frequent, severe, or worrisome nosebleeds or headaches.

When to see a doctor

In many cases, mild headaches Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source and nosebleeds Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source go away on their own or with self-care.

However, talk with a doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following:

  • frequent, persistent, or severe nosebleeds or headaches
  • you take a blood thinning medication, like warfarin (Coudmadin, Jantoven)
  • you have a blood clotting condition, such as hemophilia
  • at-home care doesn’t improve your headache
  • a child under the age of 2 has a nosebleed
  • nosebleeds or headaches that appear alongside other concerning symptoms, such as:

Some nosebleed or headache symptoms require emergency care. Call 911 or local emergency services for any of the following situations:

Learn more about when to call a doctor or 911 for headache symptoms.

Treatment and self-care

Treatment for a headache and nosebleed will depend on the underlying cause.

However, some self-care steps that may help you manage a headache and nosebleed include:

  • Rest and hydration: For headaches, rest in a quiet and dark room and stay hydrated.
  • Cold compress: Applying a cold compress to the forehead or back of the neck can help reduce headache severity.
  • Pinch your nostrils: Pinching your nostrils shut for at least 10 minutes Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source can often stop a nosebleed. Lean slightly forward to avoid swallowing blood. Do not tip your head backward.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications: OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen, analgesics, or acetaminophen can help manage headache pain.
  • Avoid triggers: Try to identify and avoid triggers for headaches or nosebleeds, such as:
    • specific foods
    • certain situations
    • inadequate sleep
    • nose picking or blowing the nose too hard
    • allergens

Talk with a doctor about your treatment plan.

Read more about headache relief at home and how to stop a nosebleed.

Summary

Nosebleeds and headaches may appear together due to:

  • respiratory infections
  • sinusitis
  • migraine
  • allergies
  • deviated septum
  • injury

Talk with a doctor if you have questions about nosebleeds and headaches or have symptoms that are frequent, persistent, or concerning.

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Medical Reviewer: Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2024 Jun 5
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.