When to worry about a nosebleed

More than 60% of people will experience a nosebleed, or epistaxis, in their lifetime. The bleeding is from the tiny blood vessels found lining the inside of your nose and can be triggered by dry air. While most nosebleeds are harmless, they can potentially cause serious complications.  Here are the red flags to watch if you develop a nosebleed and what to look for when a nosebleed means something more serious is happening. 

It happens frequently

While infrequent nosebleeds are usually harmless, recurrent nosebleeds can indicate a serious underlying problem, including high blood pressure, a blood clotting disorder, or in more severe cases, cancer.  It’s important to seek medical attention if you have nosebleeds more than once a week to address possible underlying causes. 

You have other signs of unexplained bleeding

If, in addition to a nosebleed, you develop unexplained bruises, your gums bleed more when you brush your teeth, your period is heavier than usual or if you are taking blood-thinning medication, it’s important to seek medical attention.  Nosebleeds paired with these other symptoms can indicate a potentially serious deficiency in the components that cause your blood to clot or an underlying medical condition that may impact your body’s ability to stop nosebleeds.

The blood flow is heavy

Heavy blood flow that drips down the back of your throat may mean that you need medical attention for your nosebleed. There are two categories of nosebleeds: anterior and posterior.  

Anterior nosebleeds cause blood to trickle out of the front of your nose. These types of nosebleeds typically stop on their own within a few minutes and do not need medical care.

Posterior nosebleeds are more serious and cause blood to leak down the back of your throat. If you have posterior bleeding, it’s important to seek medical attention since posterior bleeds can cause significant blood loss if they’re not treated appropriately.

Bleeding lasts for 20+ minutes

Most nosebleeds stop within 15-20 minutes of onset.  Pinching the bridge of your nose, leaning forward and applying ice to the bridge of your nose can help a nosebleed stop faster.  However, if you can’t get your nosebleed to stop with these measures, seeking prompt medical attention is important to prevent potentially serious complications from uncontrolled bleeding.

Bleeding with other symptoms

Since nosebleeds have the potential to cause significant blood loss, it’s important to watch for symptoms of anemia, including lightheadedness, dizziness, a fast heart rate, very high blood pressure, a pale complexion or feeling faint. These symptoms could be a particular concern if an injury caused the nosebleed, you are on blood-thinning medication or you have an underlying medical condition that causes bleeding.

Anemia and nosebleeds

Anemia is a lack of adequate red blood cells required to transport oxygen to the body’s tissues. Statistics about anemia might surprise you as it's the most common blood disorder. Frequent nosebleeds could be a symptom of low platelet count for people with anemia. If you have never been officially diagnosed with anemia yet are experiencing frequent nosebleeds, you may want to discuss this with your healthcare provider for further testing. 

Visit an urgent care for nosebleeds

If you have a nosebleed that may need medical attention or are experiencing frequent nosebleeds, find a local provider from one of our health system partners at an urgent care center near you. We offer care for nosebleeds and treatment for most non-emergency medical conditions

We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. Walk in without an appointment or save your spot online. We’ll have you feeling better in no time. 


  1. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/nosebleeds.html
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/13464-nosebleed-epistaxis
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/nosebleeds/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050914
  4. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/nosebleed
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-nosebleeds/basics/art-20056683

Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant