Allergies and Nosebleeds: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated
Updated

Do allergies cause bloody noses?

Allergies can cause the inside of the nose to become dry, irritated, and inflamed. When this occurs, the tiny blood vessels in the mucous membranes within the nose can easily rupture and start to bleed. This is what typically causes a bloody nose when someone has an allergy.

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Allergies and Bloody Nose

Allergies are an immune system overreaction to environmental substances (allergens). Common allergens include pollen, mold, and animal dander. When you come into contact with one of these particular allergens, your body releases histamine, which can cause swelling, itching, and sneezing. A nosebleed occurs when a delicate blood vessel within the nasal membranes ruptures and bleeds; sometimes, allergies can make those tiny blood vessels more fragile.

How Do Allergies Cause Nosebleeds?

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may be familiar with the most common symptoms, including sneezing fits, itchy eyes, and runny noses. But another common side effect of seasonal allergies is nosebleeds

Let's take a closer look at how allergies can make your nose bleed.

Dry Nose

One of the most common causes of nosebleeds due to allergies is dryness. When allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust are inhaled, they can cause inflammation in the nasal membranes.

This inflammation leads to swelling, which reduces airflow through the nasal passages leading to dryness. Dryness in the nasal cavity increases the risk of bleeding because it weakens the delicate blood vessels within your nostrils, which makes it easier for them to rupture and cause a bloody nose.

Irritation

One of the leading causes of nosebleeds related to allergies is irritation to the nasal passages. When you have an allergic reaction, your body produces histamine, an inflammatory chemical. This histamine can irritate the lining of your nostrils, leading to inflammation and dryness. This is one of the most common ways allergies cause nosebleeds.

Antihistamines

Many people take antihistamines for their allergies. These medications work by blocking histamine—a chemical your body releases during an allergic reaction—from binding to your cells. Unfortunately, sometimes taking antihistamines can dry out the nasal passages and make them prone to bleeding.

To prevent this from happening, try using a saline nasal spray or humidifier in your home when you take antihistamines. This humidity will help keep your nasal membranes moist and less likely to bleed.

Decongestants

Decongestants are medications that shrink the small blood vessels in the nose and relieve congestion caused by allergies or colds. Decongestants can be in the form of tablets, drops, or nasal sprays. While these medications effectively reduce allergy symptoms like stuffiness, they can also make the inside of the nose too dry and prone to bleeding if taken for too long or at too high a dose.

If you need decongestants for more than a few days in a row due to allergies, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

Excessive Nose Rubbing/Nose Blowing

When people experience allergies, they often blow, rub, or pick their noses. This friction can damage the small blood vessels that are already irritated. This damage causes a higher likelihood of a nosebleed.

This action can also introduce bacteria into their noses resulting in infections that may worsen their allergy symptoms or lead to other medical issues such as sinusitis. It's important to avoid excessive nose-picking or rubbing when you have allergies.

What Else Causes Nosebleeds?

Nosebleeds are common, especially in children and young adults. While often harmless, it's important to know what else could be causing them apart from allergies. Understanding the underlying cause of your nosebleed will help you know when to seek medical attention and what steps you can take.

Here are some of the common causes of nosebleeds:

Sinus Infections

The sinuses are located around your eyes and nasal cavity. Infections in these areas can lead to inflammation that puts pressure on the delicate tissue inside your nostrils, leading to bleeding. If you think you may have a sinus infection or any infection in your upper respiratory system, it's best to seek medical attention immediately to prevent further complications.

Chemicals that Irritate Your Airways

Exposure to chemical irritants could lead to nosebleeds. Irritants may include household cleaning products, strong perfumes, or aerosols. When you come into contact with these chemicals, your nasal passages may become inflamed, which could result in a nosebleed. To reduce your risk of experiencing a nosebleed from these chemicals, use protective gear such as gloves and masks when cleaning or using any aerosol sprays or perfumes.

Nasal Septal Deformities

In some cases, nosebleeds can result from a structural deformity inside your nose known as a nasal septal deformity (NSD). NSDs can include things like a deviated nasal septum (where the wall between your nostrils is off-center), a perforated nasal septum (where there is a hole in the wall between your nostrils), or enlarged turbinates (the structures inside each nostril that help filter air). These issues can put extra pressure on the tissue inside your nose and lead to frequent bleeding.

Trauma or Injury

Trauma or injury to your nose can also cause nose bleeding. For instance, if someone punches you hard enough in the face, it could cause bleeding from both nostrils. It could also happen if you accidentally hit yourself while playing sports or other physical activities. Other than that, you could have a foreign object in your nose causing the nose to bleed.

Certain Medication

If you take certain medications like aspirin or other blood thinners for medical issues such as high blood pressure or a heart condition, this could be causing your nosebleeds. Since these medications are designed to reduce the viscosity of your blood, they can also make it easier for your nose to bleed.

Hypertension

High blood pressure (hypertension) puts extra strain on the delicate vessels in the nose, making them more prone to bursting and bleeding. If untreated, hypertension can worsen over time and lead to serious health problems such as heart disease or stroke.

Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is a long-term inflammation of the sinuses that often results in frequent congestion or infection. This inflammation weakens the lining of the nasal passages, making them more prone to bleeding. To prevent chronic sinusitis that may lead to frequent nosebleeds, treat any underlying infections quickly and use medications as prescribed by your doctor.

Nosebleed Symptoms

The most common symptoms of a nosebleed include the following:

  • Bleeding from one or both nostrils
  • Blood dripping down the throat
  • Coughing up blood
  • Headaches and facial pain around the nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery eyes

In some cases, there may also be lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting. Of course, if you experience a severe or relentless nosebleed that won't stop after fifteen minutes, you need to seek immediate medical care.

How Long Do Bloody Noses Last?

In most cases, allergy-induced nosebleeds last for just a few minutes. However, severe cases might require a few stops with gauze and up to 15 minutes of pressure to stop it entirely. If there's excessive bleeding, don't hesitate to visit your doctor for help.

You may have underlying medical issues that need attention.

How to Treat a Nosebleed

To stop a nosebleed, remain calm, and don't tilt your head back - this will only cause more blood to run down the back of your throat. You don't want to be swallowing blood. Instead, pinch your nose just above the nostrils and lean forwards slightly so that blood doesn't come out of your nose. When pinching your nose, ensure you're not pressing too hard, as this could cause more damage. After ten minutes, check if the bleeding has stopped and discard any tissues used.

How to Prevent Nosebleeds

Since dry air is a major culprit, humidifying your home or office air is one of the best ways to prevent excess dryness and irritation in the nasal cavity. You can also apply a nasal moisturizing solution like nasal spray during your allergy reaction to ensure your nasal passages remain lubricated.

Moreover, avoid allergens that trigger your allergies, and don't use allergy decongestants unless necessary. Resist the urge to blow your nose too hard or constantly pick, as this can make things worse. Finally, if you need to take aspirin or other blood thinners, ask your doctor first, as these medications may contribute to excessive bleeding.

When to See a Doctor for Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds may seem like a minor problem that you could easily take care of alone. Even though they're rarely life-threatening, there are certain times when you should see a doctor for your nosebleeds. For instance, if there is significant heavy bleeding, if it's hindering your ability to breathe, or if the bleeding continues for more than twenty minutes, you need to talk to your physician. It could be more serious, like an infection, if the nosebleed is particularly severe and accompanied by pain, dizziness, or fever.

How Are Nosebleeds From Allergies Diagnosed?

Generally, your doctor will start with a physical exam of your nose and throat to look for any potential causes or obvious symptoms. They need to determine the type of nosebleed. They'll also ask you questions about your medical history to help pinpoint the source of your bleeding.

If further testing is needed, they may take an imaging test or run blood tests to get more information about what might be causing the issue. Your doctor will also ask for a description of the bleeding episode – when it happened, how long it lasted, and what factors may have triggered it. They'll inquire about any chronic allergies or environmental factors that exacerbate your allergies or current medications that may cause blood thinning.

If an allergy reaction triggered your nosebleed, a physical exam such as a blood or skin prick allergy testing might also be necessary. The doctor will recommend the most appropriate medical care depending on the results. If you have been experiencing recurring nosebleeds, consider taking an at-home allergy test from Wyndly. Allergy testing will help you know what's triggering your allergies, which will help you avoid your triggers and lessen your chances of nosebleeds.

Nosebleed Treatment Options

If you've already tried treating your allergies with antihistamines or decongestants like nasal sprays and still have nose bleeding, there's something your doctor can do about it. Let's take a closer look at some effective treatments for this pesky problem.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy is an allergy treatment that helps reduce seasonal allergy symptoms such as sneezing and nasal congestion by exposing allergy sufferers to small amounts of allergens over time. The allergens will be administered via drops or tablets placed under your tongue. Sublingual immunotherapy results in long-term relief from allergy symptoms.

Cauterization

Cauterization is a procedure in which an electric current is used to seal the bleeding vessels in your nose. This seal will stop the bleeding and help prevent future nosebleeds. It's generally considered safe and can be done in your doctor's office as an outpatient procedure.

Packing

This procedure involves placing packing material inside your nostrils to apply pressure and stop the bleeding. Packing materials typically include cotton balls, gauze sponges, or other absorbent materials. This option tends to be more successful when treating recurrent nosebleeds. It prevents further irritation of the nasal membrane that could lead to more frequent nosebleeds.

Ligation

When ligation is performed for nosebleed management, two small rubber bands are placed around the base of the affected nostril to stop blood flow from that particular area. The bands may stay on for up to two weeks before they need to be removed and replaced with new ones as required for effective treatment results.

Surgical Repair of a Deviated Nasal Septum

If your nosebleeds result from a deviated septum, you may need surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon will remove or repair any damaged tissue and correct any nasal obstructions caused by the deviated nasal septum.

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