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Nosebleeds are relatively common, and not usually a reason to panic. When should you seek medical attention for a nosebleed?

Many people get nosebleeds occasionally. When this happens, you may be a little scared or you may simply wonder how to proceed. The nosebleed will usually pass within 10 to 15 minutes, after which most people will soon stop thinking about it. Though nosebleeds are rarely dangerous, there are some situations in which they deserve closer inspects and even require medical attention.

What should you do when you have a nosebleed? What causes nosebleeds? When should you be worried and seek medical attention?

What Are Nosebleeds?

The medical term for a nosebleed is epistaxis, and it happens when one or more blood vessels within the nose breaks. Nosebleeds are quite common especially in children and are not usually dangerous. The blood vessels in the nose are, after all, both fragile and close to the surface of your nasal lining.

Nosebleeds can be anterior or posterior. Anterior nosebleeds are usually less severe, but more visible since blood is expelled from the nose. Anterior nosebleeds involve more bleeding, but the source is much harder to uncover and the blood leaks into the throat. Nosebleeds are more frequently seen in children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people on blood thinning medication or with blood clotting disorders.

Low air humidity, diseases like the common cold and allergies, and nose picking are some of the more common harmless causes of nosebleeds. Having an "overdose" of fresh air or being at a high altitude can lead to nosebleeds, as can the use of certain medications including Aspirin, ibuprofen, nasal decongestants and antihistamines the same medications you might use to treat a blocked nose, a common cold, or allergies.

You are actually more likely to use medications that are associated with nosebleeds when you are already suffering from routine health issues that are also linked to nosebleeds, in other words!

There will, occasionally, be more serious underlying causes. They can include structural problems within the nose, high blood pressure, polyps or tumors within the nose or sinuses, blood clotting disorders and abnormal nasal blood vessels. A fall or bump might lead to a nosebleed, and even a really heavy sneeze can be responsible.

There is a lot of contradictory advice about nosebleeds out there, so what should you really do when you or your child has a nosebleed?

The most important thing is to raise your head above your heart, which is easily achieved either by sitting or standing up. Do not, as many advise, hold your head back, as this can cause blood to leak into your throat and sinuses. Leaning your head forward a little is a better idea. Hold your nostrils closed with your thumb and index finger, and relax. Don't keep checking if the bleeding has stopped, and don't make sudden movements. 

There are also certain preventative measures you can take. Don't blow your nose forcefully when you have a cold, an allergy like hay fever, or a blocked nose. Don't use nasal decongestants more frequently than you should, and stick to the instructions on your package insert. You can use an air humidifier if your nosebleeds are likely caused by central heating, and smokers with nosebleeds should definitely start thinking about kicking their habit.

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