What Causes Nosebleeds?

Excessive nose picking and dry air can lead to a nosebleed, but so can high blood pressure and allergies. Here are some possible causes — and what you can do.

Woman stopping nosebleed

Possible Causes: Nose picking, dry air, blood thinners, high blood pressure, allergies, antihistamines, and, rarely, liver disease or nasal tumors

A nosebleed occurs when the delicate blood vessels in the nose are damaged and break. “By far, the most common cause for bloody noses is picking your nose,” says functional physician Thomas Sult, MD. “The second most common cause is dry air.”

Allergies can also trigger them — and, in a vicious circle, so can the antihistamines often used to combat them.

Certain factors increase the risk. “For some, nosebleeds are the presenting symptom that cause people to find out they have high blood pressure,” says Sult. Blood thinners, like aspirin or Warfarin, can also cause bleeding; even taking too much fish oil (a mild blood thinner) can be a trigger.

In very rare cases, nosebleeds can signal tumors in the nose or an uncommon liver disease that affects blood clotting.

What You Can Do: If you live in a dry climate or have allergies, try putting unscented, all-natural lip balm on your finger and (gently!) placing some inside each nostril to prevent bleeding. “That works better than nasal sprays,” says Sult, which are likely to dry the tissues even further. If dry air is a problem, use a humidifier.

Seek out expert counsel, says Sult, if you believe blood thinners, allergies, or antihistamines are a factor; if you feel blood run down your throat during a bloody nose; if your nose feels hard when squeezed; or if you notice a ­yellowish tint in your eyes.

The best way to treat a nosebleed is to blow thoroughly and then pinch the soft cartilage of the nose (where it collapses) for five minutes.

This originally appeared in “What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You, Part 3” in the July/August 2019 print issue of Experience Life.

FMCHC, is a functional-medicine health coach and health journalist in Minneapolis.

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