Why You Should Never Tip Your Head Back When Trying To Stop a Bloody Nose, According to an MD

Photo: Getty/ LaylaBird
Whether you're a first-timer or a nosebleed pro, the advice about what to do when that dreaded gush of blood starts pouring out of your nose can be...confusing.  Case in point: At some point, most of us have been told to tip our heads back to stop the blood from flowing. Turns out, that's definitely not what you're supposed to do for a nosebleed, and can actually make things worse.

Why? Tipping your head back actually doesn't stop the blood from running. Instead, it causes the blood to run down your throat, possibly even triggering nausea or vomiting, says Andrea Paul, MD, physician and medical advisor to Illuminate Labs. Sure, you might not see blood coming out of your nose, but the crux of the problem—blood gushing from within your nose—still exists.

Experts In This Article

Like many common health issues, it seems like everyone and their mother has a solution. Some are deeply culturally rooted, while others are the best medical advice people had from a different time. Either way, we now have a better understanding of what to do for cuts, scrapes, sprains, stings, and, yes, nosebleeds—but more importantly, what not to do.

4 things you should not do when you have a nosebleed

1. Tip your head backward or lean backward

Again, "tipping your head backward does not help stop a nosebleed," says Dr. Paul. This can cause you to cough or choke on the blood and lead to nausea and vomiting. What should you do instead? Tip your head forward to allow gravity to work in the right direction and help the blood flow out of your nose. One other thing to note is that if your nosebleed lasts longer than 20 minutes, you should seek urgent medical care, per Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH).

2. Pinch the bridge of your nose

If you've heard that you should pinch your nose during a nosebleed, that's actually good advice, but how you do it is important. Pinching the nostrils closed can help physically stop the blood from running out while also encouraging blood clotting. However, make sure to pinch the lower, soft area of the nose below the bony bridge of the middle nose. This is because most nosebleeds start in the lower portion of the nose, and pinching the bridge is too firm to close the nostrils and stop the flow of blood, according to NCH.

3. Shove tissues or objects like tampons in your nostrils

You might be tempted to follow in the footsteps of literally every TV and movie character with a nosebleed and shove a tampon up your nose. Surprise, tampons aren’t great for nosebleeds, and neither is shoving tissues up into the nostrils. That's because the tissue material can get stuck to the dried blood clot that's built up against the open blood vessel. Then, when you pull out the tissue, it can rip off this fragile initial clot and restart the nosebleed, per NCH. It's better to gently press tissues to the nostrils to catch the blood that escapes the nose while you pinch it shut, says Dr. Paul.

4. Ignore frequent and intense nosebleeds

Last but not least—don't neglect frequent and long-lasting nosebleeds. The occasional nosebleed is a normal occurrence, but if they happen often, Dr. Paul recommends seeking treatment from a care provider or urgent care. If you've lost about a cup of blood, feel dizzy or faint, or have experienced some kind of head trauma, it's best to seek emergency medical attention.

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