Here’s Exactly What To Do for a Nosebleed, According to an MD

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I don't know about you, but I have nosebleeds so infrequently that, when they do happen, I hear conflicting advice about how to handle them. In elementary school, an adult told me to tip my head backward, but I was told to lean forward in college. A co-worker once said that I should stand up instead of sitting down. (I haven't had one since, but I'm sure someone would have another creative recommendation about what to do.)

If you've also wondered exactly what to do for a nosebleed, I asked Andrea Paul, MD, physician and medical advisor of Illuminate Labs, about what to do when you look like Eleven from Stranger Things (without the nosebleed-inducing superpowers).

Experts In This Article

Sit upright and lean slightly forward

Sitting upright and leaning slightly forward allows blood to exit the body through the nose, and slightly reduces blood pressure compared to leaning backward, says Dr. Paul. It's also essential to prevent blood from running down the throat, which can block your airways or cause nausea and vomiting, she says.

Compress both sides of the nose

"Compressing the nose during a nosebleed is recommended in clinical practice because it can help slow the bleeding," says Dr. Paul. "It seems counterintuitive and may be uncomfortable, but it's a good first step." You should do this for about 10-15 minutes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Apply ice

Applying ice causes vasoconstriction, which means the blood vessels narrow and reduce bleeding. Ice can be alternated between local sites such as the area between the eyes, the bridge of the nose, and the inner cheeks close to the site of the bleeding and discomfort, Dr. Paul says.

If possible, use an ice pack instead of ice in a bag which is more likely to melt quickly and be less effective, says Dr. Paul.

Seek medical attention for long-lasting or frequent nosebleeds

Even if you get nosebleeds under control with the steps above, it's important to see a doctor if nosebleeds occur more than every once in a while. It could be a sign of something more serious going on, according to Dr. Paul. The Mayo Clinic also recommends that nosebleeds shouldn't last longer than 30 minutes. So if they do, seek medical care.

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