The link between allergies and nosebleeds isn’t obvious at first blush. After all, not all nose bleeds are the result of an overactive immune system.
However, as you will discover in this post, there are links between them, something that several studies now confirm.
Allergies and nosebleeds – What causes them?
Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to foreign substances entering your body that most people don’t respond to. Common allergens include pet dander, pollen, and bee venom.
When your immune system detects these substances, it begins to manufacture antibodies. These travel to the site in contact with the allergen, usually the nasal lining or sinuses, leading to inflammation, swelling, and itchiness.
The severity of allergies differs considerably between people. Some hardly know they have one, while others can develop anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition where the airways narrow and stop them from breathing.
Nosebleeds occur when the capillaries under the nasal membrane rupture and blood starts trickling out. They typically occur because of stress, high blood pressure, and trauma (that is, people picking or rubbing their noses). However, allergies may play a significant role, too.
Here are some of the reasons allergies may lead to a higher incidence of nosebleeds.
Drying out of nasal membranes
Dry nasal passages are a common allergy symptom. In the presence of allergens, the nose ceases making sufficient mucus to keep its interior lining moist, making it weaker and more prone to bleeding. As blood vessels under the nose’s surface open up, it increases the likelihood of a nosebleed even more.
Doctors often prescribe patients nasal steroid sprays for common allergens. These help to calm the immune response in the nasal cavity, reducing swelling and post nasal drip. However, steroid sprays may also increase the chance of developing nosebleeds.
Sprays may contain ingredients that irritate the nose. Usually, the irritation is mild but can be severe in a subset of patients. Nosebleeds are a common side effect as the nasal lining becomes damaged.
Rubbing your nose
The “allergic salute,” also known as nasal rubbing, is a common problem that occurs among recurrent allergy patients. People with uncomfortable allergy symptoms rub their noses, damaging the sensitive lining of their nostrils and causing blood vessels under the surface to burst through the skin, leading to a nosebleed.
How to treat nosebleeds?
If you already have a nosebleed:
- Take a seat and then pinch your nose just above your nostrils for up to 15 minutes
- Breathe through your mouth while leaning forward to prevent blood from draining down your throat
- Remain upright, as this will reduce blood pressure in your nose and stop further bleeding
- Place a towel-wrapped ice compress on the bridge of your nose to reduce inflammation
The bleeding should stop in around fifteen minutes or so. If it doesn’t, you may require medical attention.
While trying to fix your nosebleed, stay calm. The more stressed you feel, the higher your blood pressure will rise, and the longer it will take for the bleeding to stop.
How to prevent nosebleeds from allergies?
To reduce your risk of developing an allergy-related nosebleed, you should:
- Discuss nasal spray options with your doctor (they may be able to offer you less irritating alternatives)
- Humidify your environment to keep nasal membranes supple
- Stop rubbing your nose when you feel allergic irritation
- Avoid the urge to pick your nose
- Don’t travel to high altitudes where the air is thin, such as mountaineering or ski trips
- Avoid the urge to blow your nose too hard (which may damage blood vessels, causing them to burst)
- Avoid smoking (as chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage your nasal lining)
- Keep windows and doors closed during allergy season
- Regularly vacuum your upholstery to prevent the buildup of allergen particles
- Use saline nasal products instead of corticosteroids where possible
- Avoid using excessive cold and cough medications
When to see a doctor?
Most nosebleeds, including those that follow allergies, are nothing to worry about. They typically occur in people who have a genetic propensity to develop them. Bleeding should stop within 15 minutes.
If you have health conditions besides allergies, then nose bleeds may be more serious and you could require medical help. Patients taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin or aspirin, for instance, may bleed more easily and for longer than normal.
If you are taking either of these drugs, you may not be able to stop the bleeding by yourself. Blood may not contain enough clotting factors to form a seal by itself.
In these cases, get medical help. Doctors will place packing materials in your nose to stem the bleeding. These absorb blood and help scabs to form naturally.
In some rare cases, bleeding disorders can cause nosebleeds. Again, blood may not clot properly, meaning that you can’t stop the bleeding, even if the damage is small.
If you know you have a bleeding disorder, go to the emergency room immediately. Do not attempt to drive there yourself.
Get help from an online doctor
If you have an allergy and you believe that it is causing nose bleeds, get help from an online doctor today. These professionals can consult with you about your symptoms and whether your nose bleeds relate to preexisting conditions, personal habits, or the medications you are currently taking.
- There is a link between allergies and nosebleeds
- Allergies can increase the risk of developing nose bleeds by drying out nasal membranes directly, inducing patients to rub their noses, and through allergy steroid spray usage
- You can treat nosebleeds by leaning forward and pinching your nose above your nostrils
- To prevent nosebleeds, ask your doctor if you can change nasal spray medications, and avoid smoking, rubbing your nose, or blowing it too hard
- If you have a medical condition that causes you to bleed more easily or you take blood thinners and you get a nose bleed, speak to a doctor immediately
- Murray AB, Milner RA. Allergic rhinitis and recurrent epistaxis in children. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1995 Jan;74(1):30-3. PMID: 7719879. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7719879/
- Allergies, Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497
- Harrison Alter, Anna H Messner (2021) Patient education: Nosebleeds (epistaxis) (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/nosebleeds-epistaxis-beyond-the-basics
- Benninger MS. Epistaxis and its relationship to handedness with use of intranasal steroid spray. Ear Nose Throat J. 2008 Aug;87(8):463-5. PMID: 18712695. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18712695/
- GIRSH LS. Allergic Rhinitis, a Common Cause of Recurrent Epistaxis in Children. AMA Am J Dis Child. 1960;99(6):819–821. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.1960.02070030821017