What Causes Frequent Bloody Noses?

Why They Happen, What You Can Do

young man with bloody nose looking mirror
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"What causes frequent bloody noses?" Doctors hear this question a lot, especially from parents. They may report that their children sometimes bump their noses or fall down and get nosebleeds, but, although it's distressing, at least the parents know the cause. They're more concerned about nosebleeds that seem to happen without a cause. As one parent said, "Sometimes they wake up in the morning and there's blood on their pillows and dried blood around their nose or face.

What causes this?"

Of course, adults can get frequent bloody noses, too.

A Few Basic Facts

  • Nosebleeds happen more often in the winter, when people get more colds and the air indoors is drier.
  • Your nose lining contains many small blood vessels that are easily irritated to the point of bleeding, especially when you try to remove crusts "stuck" inside your nose.
  • The medical term for "nosebleed" is epistaxis.

Generally speaking, the fact is that some people are just more prone to developing frequent bloody noses, especially under certain circumstances such as dry weather. 

Causes of Frequent Bloody Noses

Common Causes. The following conditions or illnesses make developing a bloody nose more likely:

  • Dry mucous membranes from low humidity or dehydration
  • Very cold air
  • Allergies
  • Chemical irritants (for example, polluted indoor air, such as in Sick Building Syndrome, and sensitivity to irritants given off by fabric softeners or disposable diapers)
  • Frequent nose picking or rubbing 
  • Blowing your nose too hard or, sometimes, sneezing
  • Overuse of nasal decongestant sprays
  • Infections
  • Deviated septum (a condition where the bone/cartilage "wall" dividing the inside of your nose is crooked, which can make it harder to breathe through your nose)
  • Colds and other upper respiratory infections

    Less Common and Rare Causes. These include:

    Children probably get frequent bloody noses more than adults. Why? Because they're more likely to pick or rub their noses or put foreign objects into their nostrils. 

    Preventing Frequent Bloody Noses

    Not all nosebleeds can be prevented. But, if you're experiencing frequent bloody noses, here are some things you can try that may reduce their number and/or severity.

    • Use a cool mist humidifier. If possible, place it somewhere near your bed while you sleep.
    • Try an over-the-counter (OTC) saline nasal spray. Be cautious, however, when using any nasal spray, because the tip may damage scabbed-over blood vessels or areas inside your nostrils. To prevent this, 1) don't insert the tip too far up your nose, and 2) try to angle the bottle toward the center of your nose (toward the septum).
    • You may wish to try a neti pot (a container used to rinse drainage or mucus from the nose). Again, be cautious about how you insert the tip into your nostrils. Avoid using vigorous sprays or bulb syringes.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Treat underlying conditions such as allergies.
    • Try not to rub or pick your nose. Clip children's fingernails to minimize any damage they might do by picking at their noses.

    When to See a Doctor

    Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you are unable to stop an active nosebleed after about 20 minutes or if the bleeding is severe. For tips on stopping a nosebleed, read: How to Stop a Nosebleed. You should also see a doctor if you have frequent bloody noses that keep happening with the same frequency despite your efforts to prevent them. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can rule out underlying disorders such as tumors, abnormal growths, or a disorder that prevents your blood from clotting properly.

    Treatments for Frequent Bloody Noses

    Managing the underlying causes of frequent bloody noses is likely to be the most effective way to keep them from recurring. Sometimes this approach may need to be combined with other treatments.

    There's limited research on the treatment of frequent bloody noses. However, the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery recently released a study reviewing different treatment options. This research shows that the procedures 1) chemical cauterization (spraying a chemical into the nose to shrink blood vessels), 2) surgical ligation (tying-off a burst blood vessel in the nose), and 3) embolization (blocking bleeding blood vessels) were most likely to keep bloody noses from recurring long-term. Patients who underwent these procedures had better results and shorter hospital stays than patients with bloody noses who were treated with, for example, nose packing.


    “Head and neck surgery: nosebleeds.” American Academy of Otolaryngology (2010).

    “Head and neck surgery: development of a therapeutic algorithm for optimal nosebleed management.” American Academy of Otolaryngology (2013). 

    “Nosebleed.” U.S National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health (2013). 

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