- About 60% of people have at least one nosebleed in their lifetime, according to the University of California, Los Angeles.
- Anything that dries out your nose, including winter weather and nasal sprays, can cause it to bleed.
- Here are 10 common causes of nosebleeds, according to a rhinologist.
Most of the time, a nosebleed is harmless. Roughly 60% of people have a nosebleed at some point during their life, according to the University of California, Los Angeles, and it happens most often to children.
We spoke with Dr. Richard Lebowitz, a rhinologist at New York University’s Langone Health, about what causes frequent nosebleeds. Here are 10 common reasons.
Your nose is dry
Lebowitz said this is the most common cause of nosebleeds. “The lining of the nose dries and cracks just like your skin might – it’s a very vascular area,” he told INSIDER. “There are a lot of small but superficial vessels and it can easily bleed.”
You can treat a dry nose by staying hydrated, applying petroleum jelly, or using steam.
The weather may be drying out your nose
A number of things can cause your nose to be dry, including a lack of humidity. “That’s why it happens more in the winter in colder, less humid places, or why it happens when people travel on aeroplanes that are extremely dry,” Lebowitz said.
You can use a humidifier to help moisturize your nasal passages.
You have a structural issue with your nose
“Sometimes there are structural problems in the nose where you have a deviation or a bend in the septum or the wall in the middle of the nose,” Lebowitz said. According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 75% of people have a deviated septum.
“When air enters the nose, it tends to hit up against that instead of just moving nicely along the course of the septum,” he said. “That can sort of cause dryness in an area that’s not uncommon.”
Your nose spray may be to blame
Lebowitz said allergies aren’t a common cause of nosebleeds – “allergies tend to cause a runny nose, not a dry nose,” he said. However, if you’re using a nasal spray to combat your stuffiness, that could be causing frequent nosebleeds.
“People use nose sprays commonly, and those can cause dryness when the spray hits up against the lining of the nose,” he said. “Even sprays like saline spray, which are meant to moisturize the nose, can paradoxically cause bleeding in the area where the spray hits the nose.”
Nasal sprays can sometimes treat a dry nose, but if you use them often and are getting frequent nosebleeds, try using a different, nonnasal treatment.
Your allergy medication could be causing dryness
If you have allergies or a cold, you might be taking some sort of medication that could be drying out your nasal region.
“Allergy medications, like many others, can cause dryness,” Lebowitz said. “Antihistamines tend to be drying. And the nasal sprays that I just mentioned – like the topical steroid sprays, which help reduce the runniness and congestion and sneezing – those things are safe to use, but the most common side effects from using them are nosebleeds. It’s not the allergies, so much as it is the medicines.”
You’re always blowing your nose
Blowing your nose can help you breathe while you’re congested. It also creates more pressure, which can trigger nosebleeds.
“If people are constantly blowing their nose, as an allergic person might, that really increases pressure,” Lebowitz said. “If you have an area that may be prone to bleed, that certainly might precipitate a nosebleed.”
Chronic chemical exposure may also be to blame
If you work outside and are consistently exposed to unhealthy chemicals, you could get more nosebleeds.
“If people work in certain occupations where you are really exposed to chemicals that are not healthy to breathe in, that can over time cause damage to the lining of the nose,” Lebowitz said. “Now, someone cleaning in their home with a chemical that may be irritating for the nose – that won’t cause a nosebleed in the short term.”
He added: “One of the less common causes of nosebleeds that we worry about it is tumours in the nose. There are a few that are associated with chemical inhalation but, again, that’s over a long period of time. It’s chronic exposure to these things.”
You pick your nose
It may sound taboo, but this is a common habit. In a 1995 study,91% of respondents said they pick their nose. Lebowitz said this is another common cause of frequent nosebleeds, especially in kids.
“It gets back to the dryness,” he said. “Any time you are touching and picking the inside of your nose, that causes bleeding.”
You use intranasal drugs
Intranasal drugs – any drug you take through your nose – are usually administered through sprays and can include vaccines, antihistamines, migraine therapies, and benzodiazepines, which can be used to treat anxiety and depression.
“The intranasal drug can damage the lining of the nose,” Lebowitz said. “Anything that does can be a setup for nosebleeds.”
You have an underlying medical problem
There are a lot of medical problems that cause frequent nosebleeds, Lebowitz said.
“Anyone who has some sort of blood disorder with low platelet counts that causes them to start bleeding from anywhere, people who are taking anticoagulation medicines for heart disease, valve disease, or even just aspirin may have frequent nosebleeds,” he said. “All of this certainly increases your risk of bleeding.”
He added: “Nosebleeds can be a sign of a blood-clotting disorder or tumour in the nose. We always examine the nose carefully when someone has nosebleeds not just to treat it but to make sure we are not missing something. The best things to do for frequent nosebleeds is to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor.”