MAYWOOD, Ill. (January 21, 2015) – Ever get a bloody nose out of thin air? You may have been socked by Old Man Winter.
"Cold winter air can be drying and irritating to the nose and so can forms of indoor heat, such as forced air and fireplaces,” says James Stankiewicz, MD, Chair, Department of Otolaryngology at Loyola University Medical Center. “Blood flow from the nose can range from a few drops to a real gusher."
But nosebleeds can be normal in winter and nothing to get upset about, says the professor of ear, nose and throat medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
"Older individuals are more susceptible to nosebleeds in winter because their mucous membranes are not as lush and the dry air causes the thinning blood vessels in the nose to break,” says Dr. Stankiewicz. “Women who are post-menopausal are especially vulnerable to nosebleeds because of the decrease in estrogen that increases bodily fluids. Anyone who is taking blood thinners such as an aspirin regimen or Coumadin also is prone to nosebleeds."
So what should you do if you get a bloody nose? Here are five tips from Dr. Stankiewicz on how to respond to a nosebleed.
- Don’t panic. "Nosebleeds are normal and usually not indicative of anything serious."
- Stop the flow. "Tilt your head back and apply firm pressure to the nostrils for about 5 minutes."
- Ice it down. "Cold causes vessels to constrict, limiting and slowing blood flow."
- Use coated cotton. "Coat petroleum jelly on cotton pads and insert it into your nostrils."
- See a doctor. "Go to the doctor if the bleeding is profuse and will not stop. The bleeding vessel will likely be cauterized, meaning heat will be applied to the wound to stanch the flow."
There are instances when a big nosebleed or succession of frequent nosebleeds can indicate an underlying medical condition. “Teen males are more prone to a certain kind of nasal tumor that often presents through an unprovoked gushing nosebleed,” says Dr. Stankiewicz, who has specialized in nose and sinus issues for three decades. "Persistent nosebleeds can also be a sign of a blood disease such as leukemia or liver disease, so if you are troubled by it, see an ear, nose and throat specialist."
With a few simple steps, you can avoid a winter nosebleed from happening in the first place. Dr. Stankiewicz recommends these actions to avoid seeing red this season.
- Increase humidity. "Get a humidifier and run it especially in the bedrooms with the door closed a few hours before bed. You will be spending 8 hours or so asleep and your nose, like you, needs a soothing rest."
- Use petroleum jelly. "A dab of petroleum jelly on either side of the septum, two times per day, will aid moisture. Saline sprays and specialized gels and ointments also are readily available at stores."
Loyola’s ENT physicians treat children and adults with disturbances in hearing, balance, smell and taste; allergies; head and neck injuries; cancer of the head and neck; voice and swallowing disorders and sleep disorders. Among the diagnostic tools used are balance testing and the most advanced audiological and imaging equipment. The ENT physicians at Loyola also perform nasal surgery, skull-base surgery and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck as well as implantation of hearing devices for the middle ear and cochlear implants.