What causes nosebleeds in winter?

Frigid, dry air is one problem. Here's now to treat them.

Published: February 07, 2015 07:00 AM

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Q. Why do I keep getting nosebleeds during the winter?

A. In parts of the country where wintertime means alternately braving frigid winds and then huddling inside for warmth, nosebleeds are a common seasonal annoyance.

The biggest cause of winter nosebleeds is low humidity, both in cold outdoor air and heated indoor air, which can cause the delicate membrane lining nasal passages to become dry and cracked. Then all it takes is a cough, a sneeze, a sharp fingernail, or blowing your nose to rupture tiny blood vessels just below the surface. If you're using a steroid nasal spray or taking a blood thinner those may raise the risk even more.

To stop a nosebleed, first blow your nose gently, then lightly pinch the nostrils together for 10 to 15 minutes. Sit or stand bent slightly forward, so you don’t swallow blood, and breathe through the mouth. Applying a cold compress or an ice pack across the bridge of the nose may help slow the bleeding. Do not lie down or tip the head back and do not stuff the nostrils with gauze. If the bleeding doesn't stop after 20 minutes, seek emergency care.

To prevent frequent gushers, you can try placing a humidifier in your bedroom. Using a nasal saline spray or water-soluble gel to moisturize the inside of the nose may also help. If you have a cold, wiping the nose gently with a tissue instead of forcibly blowing out may keep blood vessels from bursting.

Get advice on buying a humidifer and view our Ratings.

Editor's Note:

A version of this article also appeared in the February 2015 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

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