It’s probably your natural instinct to tilt your head back when you have a nosebleed. But not only is that method useless—it can be dangerous, experts say.
That’s because the blood will run down the back of your throat, where it can wreak havoc on your body, said Jeffrey Suh, a professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles.
If enough of the spillage makes it to your stomach, it can make you vomit, Suh said.
There’s also a chance that the blood winds up in your airways, added Dr. Jennifer Villwock, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon at the State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University. In very rare cases, that can choke you or cause pneumonia, since the blood could be contaminated with bacteria from your throat.
Use this safe method instead: Gently pinch the part of your nose at the spot where it starts to become soft. (Just below your nasal bones.) This will apply pressure to the bleeding vessels inside your nostrils, which helps the blood clot faster, Villwock said.
Then tilt your head slightly forward at your neck. This way, the blood that’s already in your nose will pour out through your nostrils rather than down your throat.
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One more pro tip: Try using a decongestant nasal spray like Afrin when your bleed first starts, before pinching your nose, Villwock said. Even though the sprays are meant to ease congestion, they help stop nosebleeds faster because they constrict the blood vessels in your nostrils.
Most nosebleeds clear up in less than 15 minutes, Suh said. But if you frequently get ones that last longer than 20 minutes, see an ear, nose, and throat doctor. The specialist may be able to help with one of several treatment options.