Epistaxis, or a nosebleed, is when you lose blood from the tissue that lines the inside of your nose. A combination of dry air and tiny blood vessels that line the inner surface of your nose often cause nosebleeds. There are simple steps you can take to treat and prevent them. Although annoying, nosebleeds usually aren’t a cause for concern.
“Epistaxis” is the medical term for a nosebleed. A nosebleed, meaning a loss of blood from the tissue that lines the inside of your nose, can occur in one or both nostrils. Usually, it only affects one nostril.
Your nose has many tiny blood vessels in it. These vessels help warm and moisten the air you breathe. But they lie close to the inner surface of your nose. When air moves through your nose, it can dry and irritate your blood vessels. This makes them very easy to injure or break, causing a nosebleed.
Although bothersome, most nosebleeds aren’t serious.
Epistaxis is common. About 60% of people will have at least one nosebleed in their lifetime. Only about 10% of cases are severe enough to require medical treatment.
Anyone can get epistaxis. Most people will have at least one case in their lifetime. However, some people are more likely to have a nosebleed. They include:
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
There are two main types of nosebleeds. Healthcare providers describe epistaxis by the site of the bleeding.
An anterior nosebleed starts in the front of your nose on the lower part of the wall that separates the two sides of your nose (septum). Capillaries and small blood vessels in this front area of your nose are fragile and can easily break and bleed. This is the most common type of epistaxis and usually isn’t serious. These nosebleeds are more common in children. You can usually treat these nosebleeds at home.
A posterior nosebleed occurs deep inside your nose. A bleed in larger blood vessels in the back part of your nose near your throat causes this type. It can result in heavy bleeding, which may flow down the back of your throat. You may need medical attention right away for this type of nosebleed. This type is more common in adults.
Most often, you won’t have any symptoms other than blood coming from your nose. If you have a posterior nosebleed, some blood may drain down the back of your throat into your stomach. This can cause a bad taste in the back of your throat and make you feel nauseated.
If you have additional symptoms, it may be a sign of a medical condition.
Most nosebleeds only affect one nostril, but they can affect both at the same time. Epistaxis has many causes. Fortunately, most aren’t serious.
The most common cause of nosebleeds is dry air. Hot, low-humidity climates or heated indoor air cause dry air. Both environments cause your nasal membrane (the delicate tissue inside your nose) to dry out and become crusty or cracked. This makes it more likely to bleed when rubbed or picked or when blowing your nose. You may also experience epistaxis after inserting an object in your nose or injuring your nose and/or face.
Other nosebleed causes may include:
Other less common causes of nosebleeds include:
A healthcare provider will ask you questions about your nosebleed, including:
They’ll also ask about:
Next, your provider will examine your nose to determine the source of the bleeding and what may have caused it. They’ll use a small speculum to hold your nostril open and use various light sources or an endoscope (lighted scope) to see inside your nasal passages.
Your provider may use topical medications to numb (anesthetize) the lining of your nose and to narrow blood vessels. Your provider may remove clots and crusts from inside your nose. This can be unpleasant but isn’t painful.
Use the following steps to stop a nosebleed at home.
Call your healthcare provider if:
Nosebleed treatment depends on the cause of the bleeding. Epistaxis treatment may include:
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider.
Although seeing blood coming out of your nose can be alarming, most nosebleeds aren’t serious. You can usually manage them at home. However, you should have some cases of epistaxis checked by a healthcare provider. For instance, if you have frequent nosebleeds, see a provider. This could be an early sign of another medical issue that they’ll want to look into.
Some nosebleeds can start in the back of your nose. These cases of epistaxis usually involve large blood vessels resulting in heavy bleeding and can be dangerous. You’ll need medical attention for this type of bleed, especially if the bleeding occurs after an injury and the bleeding hasn’t stopped after 20 minutes of applying direct pressure to your nose.
Nosebleeds that occur higher on your septum or deeper in your nose may be harder to control. However, nosebleeds are rarely fatal. They account for 4 out of every 2.4 million deaths in the United States.
There are many non-serious reasons you may be getting frequent nosebleeds. They can affect one or both nostrils. The most common causes are:
In rare cases, repeated epistaxis could be a sign of a bleeding disorder or other more serious conditions. If you have frequent nosebleeds, see a healthcare provider.
The reasons for nosebleeds during sleep are the same as the reasons why they occur during the daytime — dried nasal membranes caused by dry air, allergies and upper respiratory infections that damage the delicate nasal membrane lining your nose. Sleeping with your head to the side may also put direct pressure on your nasal cavity and may be another reason for epistaxis at night.
Yes, you should drink plenty of fluids after a nosebleed. Good options include water, juice and other non-caffeinated liquids. After you experience epistaxis, some blood may drain down the back of your throat into your stomach. This may give you a bad taste in the back of your throat or make you feel nauseated. But drinking water won’t affect a nosebleed.
Call your healthcare provider immediately, have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room or call 911 if:
Yes. Blood clots are clumps of blood that form in reaction to an injured blood vessel. Blood clotting prevents excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is damaged. When you pinch your nose to stop a nosebleed, the blood will begin to clot. It’ll normally remain there until you remove it or gently blow your nose.
Many factors can lead to headaches and nosebleeds. A common cause of both symptoms is a deviated septum (a shifted wall in your nose). One study found that epistaxis may be a precursor to migraines. Other common causes of headaches and nosebleeds may include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Epistaxis, or nosebleeds, is a common yet irritating medical condition. Learn the steps for how to stop a nosebleed fast, and you’ll quickly be able to return to whatever you were doing before it started. Although most cases of epistaxis aren’t serious, you should see your healthcare provider if you get them frequently or have a bleeding disorder.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/17/2023.
Learn more about our editorial process.