Bleeding usually occurs from only one nostril. If the bleeding is heavy enough, the blood can fill up the nostril on the affected side and overflow within the nasopharynx (the area inside the nose where the two nostrils merge), spilling into the other nostril to cause bleeding from both sides. Blood can also drip back into the throat or down into the stomach, causing a person to spit or even vomit blood.
- Signs of excessive blood loss include dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, and fainting. Excessive blood loss from nosebleeds is rare.
- Additional bleeding from other parts of the body, such as bleeding gums when brushing teeth, blood in urine or bowel movements, or easy bruising may indicate an inability of the blood to clot. Additional bleeding or easy bruising can be a sign of a more significant medical problem.
If you seek medical attention for a nosebleed, your doctor will conduct a physical examination to determine a cause. He or she will check your nose for signs of a foreign object. Your doctor will also ask questions about your medical history and current medications.
Alert your doctor to other symptoms you may have, as well as any recent injuries. There is no single test to determine the cause of a nosebleed. However, your doctor might use diagnostic tests to find the cause of nosebleeds. These tests include:
- A complete blood count: a blood test to check for blood disorders
- Nasal endoscopy: examination of the nose
- Partial thromboplastin time: a blood test that checks how long it takes your blood to clot
- CT scan of the nose: imaging test that takes cross-sectional pictures of the nose
- X-ray of the face and nose: imaging test that uses radiation to produce pictures of the nose
You can self-treat a nosebleed at home. While sitting up, squeeze the soft part of your nose. Make sure that your nostrils are fully closed. Keep your nostrils closed for 10 minutes, lean forward, and breathe through your mouth.
Do not lie down when trying to stop a nosebleed. Lying down can result in swallowing blood and can irritate your stomach. Release your nostrils after 10 minutes and check to see if the bleeding has stopped. Repeat these steps if bleeding continue.
You can also apply a cold compress over the bridge of your nose or use a nasal spray decongestant to close off the small blood vessels.
See a doctor if you’re unable to stop a nosebleed on your own. If a foreign object caused your nosebleed, your doctor can remove the object. A medical technique called cauterization can also stop persistent or frequent nosebleeds. This involves your doctor burning the blood vessels in your nose with silver nitrate (a compound used to remove tissue) or a heating device. Your doctor may also pack your nose with cotton or gauze to apply pressure to your blood vessels and stop bleeding.