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Senior Correspondent

Q. What’s the best way to treat epistaxis?

Well, that one made me go to the dictionary. Turns out epistaxis is the fancy word for nosebleed.

The best way to treat a nosebleed is to resist every instinct in your body to tilt your head back or to lie down. You have to keep your head higher than your heart to cut down on bleeding. And, if you lean back, you can swallow blood, which can produce vomiting and diarrhea.

The best technique is to sit down and lean slightly forward so the blood will drain out of your nose. Then, using your thumb and index finger, squeeze the soft portion of your nose together.

Hold your nose until the bleeding stops. Don’t let go for at least 5 minutes. Repeat as necessary. You can also place an ice pack across the bridge of your nose.

Self-treatment can stop almost all nosebleeds. If bleeding persists, get immediate medical attention.

To prevent a recurrence of a nosebleed, follow these tips:

  • Avoid bending over or blowing your nose for several hours
  • Rest with head elevated to about 45 degrees.
  • Don’t lift anything heavy.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Don’t drink hot liquids for at least 24 hours.
  • Blood-thinners are not advisable if you’re suffering from a nosebleed. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen for normal aches and pains. However, if you are on a prescribed blood-thinner such as Coumadin, consult your physician.

Nosebleeds usually start just inside the nose at the septum that separates the nostrils. The septum contains many fragile, easily damaged blood vessels

In older adults, a nosebleed may also begin deeper inside the nose, where there are larger blood vessels. This type of nosebleed may be caused by hardened arteries or high blood pressure. These nosebleeds begin spontaneously and often require medical treatment.

The most common causes of bleeds are dryness and picking your nose. Other causes include injuries, colds, allergies, blowing your nose, an object stuck in the nose, repeated sneezing, nasal sprays and cocaine use.

Frequent nosebleeds can be an indicator of serious illness. For example, nosebleeds and bruising can be early signs of leukemia. Nosebleeds can also be a sign of blood clotting disorders and nasal tumors.

A cooler house and a humidifier help many people with frequent nosebleeds. Nasal saline spray and petroleum jelly ointment can help prevent nosebleeds, especially during the winter months.

If you are prone to recurrent nosebleeds, it is helpful to lubricate the nose with an ointment. This can be applied gently with a Q-tip inside the nose. Make sure the ointment is applied generously to the septum. Many patients use A & D ointment, Mentholatum, Polysporin/Neosporin ointment, or Vaseline. Saline nasal spray helps, too.

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