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One moment, you're fine. The next, moment it seems like your nose is recreating a scene from The Shining. Why do we get nosebleeds?

Hosted by: Hank Green
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Sources:

http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/nosbd
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK435997/
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0115/p305.html#sec-2
http://care.american-rhinologic.org/epistaxis
[INTRO]

QQs: WHY DO WE GET NOSEBLEEDS? Your nose! It probably isn't something you think about all that much, at least until it starts gushing blood everywhere.

Nosebleeds can show up out of nowhere, and some people get more of them than others. Sometimes when a character on TV gets a nosebleed, it's like a sign that something is seriously wrong with them, but in real life there's usually nothing to worry about. How often they happen mostly depends on how dry your nose is or on how often you stick your finger up there.

Up to 60% of people will get a nosebleed at least once in their lives which shocks me because, like, who are these people who don't get nosebleeds and how can I be one of them? That's probably because those people get sick more easily, which can irritate their noses.

A nosebleed starts when blood vessels rupture in your nose, so if you've heard that the blood is coming from your brain, that's almost definitely not what's happening. Nosebleeds can be caused by a tumor or brain hemorrhage or if you're Eleven from Stranger Things using your psychic powers, but all those things are super-rare.

And even though it looks like a lot of blood, that's just because your nose is packed with blood vessels, not 'cause your brain is leaking. The official term for a nosebleed is epistaxis, and there are two kinds of them. The most common type is anterior epistaxis, where blood vessels from a group inside your nostrils rupture, and usually it only involves one nostril. The group of blood vessels is called Kiesselbach's plexus or Little's area, after the doctors who first described it, and those nosebleeds can usually be treated at home.

A nosebleed can also start in the back of the nose. Those are called posterior nosebleeds and they usually involve both nostrils. They can be more serious and sometimes require a doctor, and they often happen in the elderly because of other health problems, like high blood pressure. They start when arteries rupture from a group called Woodruff's plexus, and since they're closer to the back of your throat, the blood can sometimes drain down there and cause nausea or vomiting. No nosebleed is like, fun, exactly but that sounds especially awful.

Most nosebleeds happen spontaneously. One day you're enjoying life, and then suddenly, warm nose waterfall! They usually happen when things like dry air, smoke, or dehydration dry out some of the mucus that protects your nasal septum, that barrier that splits your nose into two nostrils. That leaves your nose's sensitive membranes more exposed, so blood vessels rupture more easily. They can also happen, of course, if you get punched in the face, or run into something, or if you're a little too enthusiastic about picking your nose and scratch open some of those blood vessels, but those causes are, you know, pretty easy to figure out.

Most of the time, applying pressure to your nose will slow the bleeding, so cells like platelets can create blood clots to seal the hole. In serious cases a doctor might actually have to close the wound with chemicals like silver nitrate, or by inserting an artificial blood clot. But it'll normally stop on its own. So if you do get a nosebleed, especially the kind where you bleed from the front of your nose, it's most likely from dry weather, allergies, or because somebody punched you in the face, or you scratched your nose with your big ol' fingernail trying to get that massive bogey out of there. Anyway, there's not much need to worry. Just try to keep your nose clean and hydrated so your natural mucus can do its thing, and don't get in the way of anybody's fists.

Also if you've never experienced a nosebleed, congrats! You might live in an especially humid area, or you might have just hit the genetic jackpot and you have nice, wet mucous membranes. If you're one of those people, let us know! Maybe we'll have a little poll on this one. A little poll. In that corner. Thanks to Patreon patron, Scarlett, for asking this question, and thanks to all of our patrons who make this possible. If you got questions you would like answered or want to support the show, check us out on patreon.com/scishow.

[OUTRO]