What and Why? 

An occasional nosebleed can happen to anyone, perhaps when you blow your nose a bit too hard. If you make a habit of them, or they are hard to stop, your nosebleeds are bringing a more general weakness to light. It is time to think harder about the general state of your blood and blood vessels.

What happens?

When you tear an artery or vein, its muscular wall immediately contracts, narrowing the breach and slowing the leak of blood. The damage attracts millions of platelets — tiny cells circulating in the blood — which stick to the wound in clumps, helping to plug it. Meanwhile the spilt blood, prompted by contact with your damaged flesh, clots with dense insoluble fibres which begin to darn the tear within about ten minutes. That is usually well before the muscles relax, by which time the leak is blocked but vulnerable. The darning fibres eventually shrink, wringing fluid out of the clot to make it hard and strong. In a day or two repair work is well under way, soundly knitting the tear and dismantling the clot within about a week.

Nosebleeds and medical conditions

Only if you have one of the uncommon major defects of this complex array of defences are you in much danger of bleeding to death, except from very large blood vessels which are mostly deep inside your body, vulnerable only to internal disease or serious injury. There are however many places where small blood vessels are easily wounded, such as the eye and the nose.

Nose-bleeds can be heavy and do not always show up easily by pouring forwards: quite a proportion of your lost blood flows back into you throat and gets swallowed, at first mistaken for catarrh. Fortunately even a heavy bleed is usually easy to control. The next step is to work out why it happened, or keeps happening.

Any condition that causes congestion of your nose makes the blood vessels in it bloated and prominent; a sneeze, or blowing into a handkerchief, may then be all it takes to burst it. A cold or hay fever may do this, and many less obvious allergic or intolerance problems have come to light this way. In an older person raised blood pressure may prove to be the most important underlying factor, which your doctor will be glad to check if you ask. Even then you should be wary of attributing everything to the blood pressure; hardening of blood vessels makes them brittle and tends to go with hypertension.

If none of these suggestions fits your case and everything else seems normal, you will have to conclude that, although they are not brittle, your blood-vessels are unreasonably fragile. This usually means one of two things. Either the skin of your body cells is weak, or else the cement is that you are using to stick them together. The patchwork quilt you make up in this way to form the lining of your blood vessels cannot be any stronger than its components. Cells or cement as defective as this are well worth correcting because they could eventually let you down somewhere else in your body that is not so easy to deal with. So take nose-bleeds seriously: they sound the alarm for the rest of you.

What can I do?

Advice to maintain and maximise your health

1. Treating nosebleeds: If your nose bleeds, blow it to get rid of any clot that has already formed, then pinch it firmly between finger and thumb for at least ten minutes. A cold compress may be helpful on the back of your neck or across your brow and the bridge of your nose. If the bleeding is drastic, sprinkle cold water from a can or shower over the head and back of the victim, then lay him against pillows to rest while you arrange to consult a doctor. A dose of Bach Rescue Remedy or homoeopathic Arnica 30 will help reduce the effects of shock and can do absolutely no harm.

2. Review your diet. Are you getting enough fresh leafy vegetables? They are your principle source of two vital nutrients: Vitamin C which is a key ingredient in the cell cement; and linolenic acid, one of the two essential fatty acids you need for making strong cell skins — fresh whole seeds like wheat and nuts provide you with the other.

3. Supplementation: Fragile blood vessels benefit from Vitamin C (500mg) and Rutin (50mg) three times daily after meals. Persevere with dosage for at least a month, as it takes time to heal and reconstruct even the tiny vessels usually involved.

4. If you are an adult and have repeated nosebleeds, get your blood pressure checked.

5. If you are taking the contraceptive pill, be aware that this often causes veins to become swollen and slack elsewhere in your body and could be influencing events in your nose. It may be worth trying an alternative contraceptive method for six months, so long as you do not absolutely require the exceptional security which the pill provides.

6. Consider whether you may be affected by a chronic, low-grade allergy or intolerance problem. Does your nose often itch or block up; are your lower eyelids sometimes baggy in the morning? Try devising an exclusion diet for yourself, and avoid aerosol sprays and unnecessary cosmetic chemicals around the house. You may be surprised and delighted by the result.

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