Senior woman holding head, having headache. Possible bloody nose?

The bloody nose holds a unique position in our cultural mind’s eye. It is a no-big-deal playground occurrence, but at the same time, it’s the telltale sign that the movie hero is soon to die of some horrible illness. With the dry air of winter on the way, you may well be seeing an increase in bloody noses. And since a real life bloody nose doesn’t come with ominous music and a cinematic close up, you might not be sure how seriously to take it.

Fortunately, most of the time, a bloody nose is just the short-lived result of a bump on the nose or dried out sinuses. But on occasion, it has a more serious cause or needs more medical attention. How can you tell the difference? First, you look for red flags, then yellow.

Red Flags: Get Medical Care Immediately

There’s too much blood:
A nosebleed can be life threatening if too much blood is lost. In the case of severe bleeding, or bleeding that won’t stop after about 10-30 minutes even with direct pressure, seek medical care immediately.

It’s accident related:
If a nosebleed occurs after a car accident, a major fall, or other trauma, it may be a sign of a more serious internal injury or even a head injury that needs to be stabilized right away.

It’s getting in the way of breathing:
A nosebleed that occurs in both nostrils, goes down the back of the throat, or is accompanied by swelling can cause difficulty with breathing. This may be a sign of a more serious problem. A blocked airway, no matter the cause, is a medical emergency.

It happens to someone with a bleeding disorder:
Free flowing blood eventually slows and stops due to our blood’s amazing ability to clot. People who take blood thinners or have bleeding disorders are at risk of losing too much blood, even when the injury is small like a routine nosebleed. They will need medical assistance to stop the bleeding.

It happens to a child under the age of two:
Nosebleeds are common in children ages two-ten, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. When one occurs in a child under two, care should be sought immediately, as it may be due to a foreign object lodged in the nose, an unseen injury, or a systemic illness.

Yellow Flags: Make an Appointment to See Your Doctor Soon

It is recurrent:
Even if nosebleeds are well controlled, when they occur too often, it’s a good idea to see your physician. Recurrent nosebleeds may be a sign of an underlying condition or a reaction to a medication you are taking. Even if it is not, knowing the cause can help you prevent and better manage nosebleeds when they occur.

It accompanies other symptoms:
Sometimes a nosebleed is more than just a nosebleed and is a sign of another medical problem. Typically, though, when this is the case, it is accompanied by other symptoms, like headache, facial pain and swelling, vomiting, loose teeth, or chronic foul smelling drainage.

Drug abuse is also present:
Excessive use of alcohol can contribute to nosebleeds, as can other types of drug abuse. Cocaine use directly affects the lining of the nasal passage and can cause permanent damage.

Luckily, most nosebleeds are less serious. They are caused by things like dry air, colds that go away, nose picking, or minor injury, and can be managed at home or in the school nurse’s office. Just like in the movies, though, occasionally a nosebleed is a sign of a serious medical condition, so it’s important not to just blow it off.

If you have concerns about recurrent or serious nosebleeds contact our office and make an appointment today.