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I get a lot of nosebleeds in the winter. Why is that, and what can I do about them?

Nosebleeds, in children and adults, are most common in winter because the dry air in super-heated homes dries out membranes in the nose, making tiny blood vessels more prone to leak or burst, said Dr. Ralph Metson, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Most nosebleeds -- perhaps 99 percent -- occur at the front of the septum, the cartilage that separates the two nostrils, at a spot where four blood vessels converge. These so-called anterior nosebleeds, which are not dangerous, almost always respond to simple home remedies like sitting up (because lying down increases pressure on blood vessels, promoting bleeding), and squeezing the nostrils together for 20 minutes or so. Putting ice or a cold cloth on the face also may help.

To avoid anterior nosebleeds, you can use a humidifier and put a tiny dab of an antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin or Neosporin in your nose at night to keep things moist.

A more serious -- but very rare -- type of nosebleed is the ''posterior" type, which occurs farther back in the nose, where bony tissue makes it difficult to stop the bleeding by squeezing. This kind of nosebleed is more likely to occur in people with high blood pressure, or those who have an injury to the nose or face, and needs medical treatment, said Dr. Andrew Lane, director of the division of rhinology at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes in Baltimore.

If you get a nosebleed after any kind of head injury, you should get a CT scan because the bleeding may come from a skull fracture.


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