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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nosebleeds--When to Seek Help

There are two basic types of nose bleeds. One is common and not dangerous, and the other can be a sign of something more serious and potentially dangerous. Knowing the difference between the two will help you recognize when you need to seek medical attention quickly.

Nose bleeds occur when there is damage to the septum which the part of the nose that separates the nostrils. If there is anterior damage, or damage to the front of the septum, caused by a scratch or blow to the nose which leads to bleeding. This type of bleeding is not serious and will stop in a short period of time. Dry weather conditions can also trigger anterior nose bleeds. These can be treated by keeping the inside of the nose moist with Vaseline or other lubricants.

Posterior nose bleeds are those that occur deep in the nasal cavity. These types of nosebleeds may continue for some time and may not stop without a trip to the emergency room. Posterior nose bleeds usually occur among the elderly and people with high blood pressure. Death by posterior nose bleeds is very rare but can produce a great deal of bleeding. When bleeding occurs down the back of the mouth and throat, this is a posterior nose bleed, and it is treated differently than an anterior nose bleed.

Mild nose bleeds can usually be stopped by pinching the nostrils together or applying pressure to the bridge of the nose. For more serious nose bleeds, the patient's nose should be facing down to avoid swallowing too much blood which can cause nausea and vomiting. Ice can be applied to the bridge of the nose while maintaining pressure on the nostrils. If the bleeding does not stop, the patient should be taken to the emergency room. A physician may need to cauterize the tissue in order to stop the bleeding.

In most cases, nose bleeds are harmless. However, there are two definite signs occurring with nose bleeds that indicate a visit to the emergency room is necessary. These include:

  • Nose bleed with a severe headache – this can be a sign of high blood pressure and should be  checked right away.
  • Nose bleed with other unusual areas of bleeding or bruising such as bleeding of the gums, blood in the urine or stool, or severe bruising all over the body.

If any of these signs occur, go to the doctor or emergency room immediately as they may be signs of a more serious condition.
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