Nosebleeds, also called epistaxis, and headaches are common medical issues that can happen at the same time or separately. The causes can be minor, like allergies or weather changes. Or for some people, they can be caused by a severe injury or medical condition.
This article will discuss the causes of headaches and nosebleeds, common causes, serious causes, and causes during pregnancy. It will also describe when to see a healthcare provider, diagnosis, treatments, and prevention.
Common Causes of Both Headache and Nosebleed
A nosebleed is caused by a broken blood vessel in the nose. Because blood vessels are so close to the nose's entrance, they are susceptible to temperature changes, dryness, and injury.
A headache can have several causes, including dehydration, medication, and high blood pressure.
The two kinds of headaches are:
- Primary: These can include cluster headaches, migraine, and tension headaches. Some primary headaches can be triggered by lifestyle factors or situations. For example, drinking red wine may trigger a primary headache.
- Secondary: These can include dehydration headache, medication overuse headaches, or sinus headaches.
The common causes of headaches and nosebleeds tend to fall into three groups: medical conditions, environmental factors, or medication/drug use. Many times having a nosebleed and headache at the same time is a coincidence. But specific causes can produce both a headache and nosebleed.
Medical conditions that can cause headaches and nosebleeds are:
- Common cold
- Deviated septum
- Migraine headache
- High blood pressure
- Head or facial trauma
- Sinus infection
Environmental factors that can cause headaches and nosebleeds:
- Dry air
- Significant weather changes
Medications/drugs that can cause headaches and nosebleeds:
- Blood thinners, such as Coumadin (warfarin)
- Illicit drugs (cocaine)
- Steroid nasal sprays
Serious Causes of Both Headache and Nosebleed
There are some serious causes of headaches and nosebleeds. These causes may be less common and include:
- Brain tumor
- Blood disorders
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Chemical inhalation (such as ammonia)
- Congenital heart disease
- Essential thrombocythemia
- Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT)
Headache and Nosebleed During Pregnancy
Headaches and nosebleeds are common during pregnancy. Headaches are more common in the first three months of pregnancy due to hormone changes. If your headache doesn't resolve or is severe, contact a healthcare provider, as it can be a symptom of preeclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy).
Nosebleeds during pregnancy are also a common annoyance. The nasal passages have more blood running through the vessels, causing congestion. This congestion can create nosebleeds and stuffiness.
Headache and Nosebleed in Children
Headaches and nosebleeds are common childhood conditions that generally pose no serious threat. It's important to find the underlying cause to help determine how to stop and prevent them from happening again.
Allergies, colds, dry air, and nose picking are all common reasons a child could have a nosebleed.
Headaches can be caused by stress, tension, poor sleep, or something more serious like a brain tumor. It's best to have headaches and recurrent nosebleeds in children evaluated by a healthcare provider.
When to See a Healthcare Provider for Headache and Nosebleed
Sometimes, a nosebleed and headache cannot be managed at home.
If a nosebleed continues for more than 20 minutes after home treatments like pinching, it's time to contact a healthcare provider. Other signs to contact a healthcare provider during a nosebleed include:
- Bleeding that goes down the throat
- Nosebleed caused by major trauma
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nosebleeds that interfere with breathing
A headache can usually be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. But contact your healthcare provider if any of the following accompanies the headache:
- Stiff neck
- Shortness of breath
- Double vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mental status changes
How Are Headaches and Nosebleeds Diagnosed?
Headaches and nosebleeds are often diagnosed based on a physical evaluation and medical history. However, if the cause is not clear, then further testing may be necessary.
- Sinus X-ray: Looks at the sinuses for congestion
- Blood tests: Looks for underlying medical conditions
- CT (computed tomography) scan: Imaging to look at the structures and organs in the body
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): Advanced detailed imaging to look at structures and organs
Diagnosing a nosebleed is primarily done through visualization. A healthcare provider may use a special instrument called a nasal speculum to look inside the nose.
Coping With Headaches and Nosebleeds
Nosebleeds and headaches can typically be managed at home. Here are the steps to manage a nosebleed:
- Sit up and lean forward
- Pinch the soft area of your nose shut for 10 minutes
- After 10 minutes, let go and check for bleeding
- If still bleeding, soak a cotton ball with Afrin (oxymetazoline) nasal spray and place it in the nostril for 10 minutes
- Take out the cotton ball and do not blow the nose for two days to prevent continued bleeding
Treating a headache is not as cut-and-dried. With different triggers, causes, and types of headaches, the treatment will vary from person to person. Some treatments may include:
- Managing stress
- Taking medications
- Resting in a dark, quiet space
- Changing eating habits
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding known triggers
For some people, headache treatment can involve hospitalizations and additional treatment from their healthcare provider.
Preventing Headaches and Nosebleeds
Preventing every headache and nosebleed is impossible, but the first step is to avoid any known triggers.
Managing and reducing stress can prevent some headaches. To prevent cluster headaches (painful headaches that occur in cycles) and migraines (painful, often debilitating recurring headaches), daily prescription medication might be needed.
Nosebleeds are also prevented by avoiding causes. Keeping the air in the house moist with a humidifier, using OTC saline (saltwater) nasal sprays, and applying Vaseline or saline nasal gel to the inside of the nose can help prevent a nosebleed.
Headaches and nosebleeds are two conditions that most people will experience at some point in their life. Oftentimes, they happen separately but on occasion they can happen at the same time. Usually the co-occurrence is a coincidence, but it can signal a more serious underlying condition.
If home treatment isn't successful, then working with a healthcare provider for an individualized treatment plan can identify triggers and prevent nosebleeds and headaches.
A Word From Verywell
Headaches and nosebleeds are common and when they happen at the same time can be very concerning. However, their cause is generally minor health issues like allergies, colds, and irritation.
If the nosebleed or headache is severe or does not go away, it's time to contact your healthcare provider. They can help you find out what is causing them, form a treatment plan, and work to prevent them from happening again.