Symptoms A-Z

Is a Bloody Nose Serious? 3 Causes & How to Stop a Bloody Nose

Understand your bloody nose symptoms, including 6 causes & treatment options for your bloody nose.

Bloody Nose Symptom Checker

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Bloody Nose Symptoms

Even though a bloody nose can be unnerving, most of the time this condition is not serious. The cause of a bloody nose will usually be quite evident because bleeding will occur following an injury, nasal surgery, or a lengthy cold that has caused very irritated nasal passages [1].

The nose has an extensive supply of thin, delicate blood vessels needed predominantly for the sense of smell. This also leaves the nose already front and center and unprotected on the face somewhat vulnerable to injury, illness, and medication use (or misuse). A nosebleed is also called epistaxis [2].

Common characteristics of a bloody nose

If you're experiencing a bloody nose, it can likely be described by the following.

  • Lighter bleeding: A trickle of red blood may appear from one or both nostrils following a mild injury, or after a period of time spent blowing the nose due to a cold.
  • Heavier bleeding: A heavier gush of red blood may appear from one or both nostrils following a more severe injury, or after nasal surgery or with blood clotting problems (bleeding disorders) [2].

Is a bloody nose serious?

The severity of a bloody nose is ultimately dependent on the cause.

  • Not serious: Most of the time, a bloody nose is not serious and will stop quickly.
  • Moderately serious: A persistent nosebleed following nasal surgery or injury should be examined by a medical provider [3].
  • Serious: Nosebleeds that occur for no apparent reason and become more frequent over time should be treated by a medical provider as soon as possible [4].

Bloody Nose Causes

Trauma to the nasal passages

Things which do physical damage to the nasal passages [1,5,6]:

  • Dry air: This dries the passages and makes them thinner and more prone to bleeding.
  • Picking and blowing the nose: This causes irritation that can be severe.
  • Irritating fumes from chemicals
  • Overuse of nasal sprays: These can be very drying.
  • Cocaine use: This is extremely damaging to the lining of the nasal passages.

Conditions

These things also cause frequent nose blowing, which causes further irritation [4,7-9].

  • Allergies: Most often to dust, pollen, and other inhaled irritants.
  • The common cold
  • Sinusitis: Either viral or bacterial
  • Chronic rhinitis: This is ongoing congestion and other cold-like symptoms not due to allergies.

Trauma or deformity of the nose

Trauma to the nose in itself can result in bleeding.

  • Injury from any sort of accident, fall, or sport
  • Foreign body: Young children may push small objects up their noses, which become lodged and cause chronic pain and bleeding.
  • Deviated septum: This means that the "wall" of cartilage dividing the left nostril from the right is crooked and possibly misshapen. The abnormal airflow is very drying and leads to bleeding of the nasal tissue.
  • Nasal surgery: This may have created spots of incomplete healing that continue to bleed.

Bleeding disorders

Bleeding disorders can manifest as a bloody nose.

  • Taking blood thinners: "Thin" blood that does not clot right away due to prescribed blood thinners such as Coumadin or, sometimes, aspirin [5].
  • Low levels of platelets in the blood: This may follow a viral infection [4,10].
  • Hereditary malformations of the blood vessels

Abnormal growths within the nose

Such growths may include nasal polyps or tumors or even cancer of the blood-forming tissues anywhere in the body, which may have nosebleeds as a symptom.

Pregnancy

The body increases in vascularity (the amount of blood vessels it carries) during pregnancy, and these vessels are sometimes more vulnerable to minor bleeding [11].

Drinking alcohol

Regular consumption of alcohol can have a blood-thinning effect, especially if you are already taking a prescribed blood thinner or taking aspirin [10].

6 Possible Bloody Nose Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced bloody nose. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Normal nosebleed (epistaxis)

A bloody nose can be caused by a host of things, but is often idiopathic (without cause).

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: bloody nose, vomiting with streaks of blood

Symptoms that always occur with normal nosebleed (epistaxis): bloody nose

Symptoms that never occur with normal nosebleed (epistaxis): severe nosebleed, nausea or vomiting

Urgency: Self-treatment

Nosebleed requiring treatment

Nosebleeds are a common disorder that many (60%) will experience. It can be caused by a number of things that rupture the blood vessels in the nose such as: dry air, picking your nose, getting hit in the nose, or even just getting older

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: severe nosebleed

Symptoms that always occur with nosebleed requiring treatment: severe nosebleed

Urgency: In-person visit

Iatrogenic nose condition

Surgery of the nose or nose piercing can result in side effects ranging from infection, pain and swelling to numbness and decreased sense of smell.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: nose pain, bloody nose, bump in or on the nose, nose redness, swollen nose

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Bloody Nose Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your bloody nose

Immune thrombocytopenia

Platelets are tiny cells in the blood that help form blood clots and seal minor cuts and wounds. Immune thrombocytopenia, also known as immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), is a condition where there are not enough platelets in the blood, causing easy bruising and tiny reddish purple dots on the skin from bleeding under the surface.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: being severely ill, rectal bleeding, red stool, unexplained/excessive bleeding from cuts or wounds, unexplained bruising

Symptoms that always occur with immune thrombocytopenia: being severely ill

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic allergies

Allergies are an overreaction by the immune system to something that does not bother most other people. Many people who have allergies are sensitive to pollen, but other things such as dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and mold can also cause a reaction.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, irritability, trouble sleeping, runny nose, congestion

Symptoms that never occur with chronic allergies: fever, yellow-green runny nose, chills, muscle aches

Urgency: Self-treatment

Broken nose

Nasal fractures are common occurrences. The force needed to break the nasal bones is less than any of the other bones of the face because of their thinness and position. For kids, treatment and diagnosis is different because of the bones may not be fully formed.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: mouth breathing, constant nose pain, swollen nose, nose pain caused by trauma, nose bruise

Symptoms that always occur with broken nose: nose pain caused by trauma, swollen nose, constant nose pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Bloody Nose Treatments and Relief

When a bloody nose is an emergency

Seek immediate bloody nose treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if the bleeding is heavy and will not stop, whether or not there is also an injury [1].

When to see a doctor for a bloody nose

You should schedule an appointment for:

  • Frequent nosebleeds that occur for no apparent reason
  • Small, bright red spots that appear within the skin of the face, lips, or hands [10]

At-home treatments for a bloody nose

For mild congestion, try using a salt-water spray instead of a nasal decongestant spray [7].

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Bloody Nose

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Did your nose start bleeding after being hit in the nose?
  • Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Do you have any issues with bruising?
  • Do you have an object stuck in your nose?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your bloody nose

Bloody Nose Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced bloody nose have also experienced:

  • 7% Headache
  • 4% Fatigue
  • 3% Congestion

People who have experienced bloody nose were most often matched with:

  • 62% Nosebleed Requiring Treatment
  • 25% Iatrogenic Nose Condition
  • 12% Normal Nosebleed (Epistaxis)

People who have experienced bloody nose had symptoms persist for:

  • 56% Less than a day
  • 17% Less than a week
  • 14% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Bloody Nose Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your bloody nose

References

  1. Nosebleeds. FamillyDoctor.org. Updated October 1, 2018. FamillyDoctor.org Link
  2. Other nose disorders. Head & Neck Surgical Associates. Head & Neck Surgical Associates Link
  3. Blahd WH Jr, Husney A, Romito K, eds. Nose injuries. UW Health. Updated November 20, 2017. UW Health Link
  4. Nosebleed. Seattle Childrens Hospital. Updated November 3, 2018. Seattle Childrens Hospital Link
  5. Chronic nosebleeds: What to do. American Academy of Pediatrics: HealthyChildren.org. Updated June 1, 2009. HealthyChildren.org Link
  6. Nosebleed. Health Navigator. Health Navigator Link
  7. Nosebleed (epistaxis) in children. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link
  8. Blaivas AJ, Brown K, Kirsi JS, eds. Allergic rhinitis in children. University of Rochester Medical Center. URMC Link
  9. Quillen DM, Feller DB. Diagnosing rhinitis: Allergic vs. nonallergic. American Family Physician. 2006;73(9):1583-1590. AAFP Link
  10. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). FamillyDoctor.org. Updated January 18, 2018. FamillyDoctor.org Link
  11. Nosebleeds during pregnancy. NCT. NCT Link

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.