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Alcohol and Health

Does Alcohol Cause Nosebleeds?

June 7, 2024
16 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 7, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
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 Why Drinking Makes Our Nose Bleed

  • Alcohol dilates blood vessels, prevents clotting, dries out our nasal passages, and causes irritation. That’s pretty much the perfect recipe for recurring nosebleeds.
  • If you’re sick of bloody noses, cutting back on alcohol may provide relief.
  • Reframe’s simple, effective lifestyle changes can reduce your drinking and spare your schnozz.

You wake up after a rowdy roommates’ night out and rub your eyes. Thinking of the shots you did (whose idea was well tequila?), you groan, steeling yourself against the inevitable hangover.

As you shake the sleep off (and maybe do a quick morning scroll on your phone), you start to think that so far you seem relatively unscathed …

Until you sit up and feel a warm sensation spreading over your mouth and chin.

“Seriously?! Again? Why does my nose bleed when I drink alcohol?”

Can Drinking Cause Nosebleeds?

A woman, with a tissue pressed against her nose due to nosebleeds

If you’ve seen your nose bleed after drinking, you’re not alone. Many of us experience next-day nosebleeds after a night on the town.

Our nasal passages are lined with mucosa: a delicate, vessel-covered tissue. Everything from a slight scratch to a dry room can damage the mucosa, spurring sudden bleeding. The scientific name for that hemorrhage is epistaxis.

We can separate nosebleeds into two distinct categories.

  • Anterior nosebleeds occur near the opening of our nasal cavity, where five different blood vessels crisscross the skin’s thin surface. This area is regularly exposed to harsh temperatures and arid conditions, both of which can cause bleeding. Anterior nosebleeds are more common.
  • Posterior nosebleeds are both rarer and more serious. They originate in larger vessels deep within the nasal cavity and may be associated with underlying issues like high blood pressure, medication side effects, and blood disorders. When experiencing this type of epistaxis, we might feel blood running down the back of our throat instead of out our nose.

We think of alcohol as an everyday substance and nosebleeds as a normal occurrence, but both can raise red flags. Let’s examine how drinking can impact our risk of bloody noses and what this symptom may mean for our health.

Alcohol and Nosebleeds Explained

Back in the ‘90s, researchers from the Glasgow Royal Infirmary decided to investigate potential root causes of epistaxis. They interviewed a total of 253 people — 140 patients with bloody noses and 113 age- and gender-matched controls — and titled their study “Relation Between Alcohol and Nose Bleeds.”

So, what’s the verdict? Can drinking cause nosebleeds? Yes!

The Scottish medical team made three key discoveries:

  1. On average, nosebleed patients drank more alcohol than those in the control group (33 units per week vs. 7).
  2. There were many more regular drinkers in the epistaxis group than in the control group (45% of the nosebleed patients drank regularly vs. 30% of the control patients).
  3. Nosebleed patients were significantly more likely to have consumed alcohol within 24 hours of admission.

When summarizing their findings, the authors wrote that the study “confirm[ed] an association in adults between regular, high alcohol consumption and nose bleeds.” They also explained the potential method of action behind drinking-induced epistaxis.

Causes of Nosebleeds From Drinking

Causes of Nosebleeds From Drinking

According to the researchers at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, frequent drinking reduces the aggregation of platelets, prolonging the time our body spends bleeding. When combined with other alcohol effects, our risk of nosebleeds increases. 

  • Dehydration. Dryness is the leading cause of bloody noses. When the delicate mucosa tissue within our nasal passages dries out, it becomes especially vulnerable to irritation, infection, and bleeding. Living in a high-altitude, low-humidity environment can predispose us to bloody noses — especially when we consume alcohol, which dehydrates our bodies further.
  • Vasodilation. Alcohol adversely affects blood platelets: the cells responsible for clotting. In addition, drinking dilates our blood vessels. This is the phenomenon behind “drinker’s nose.” The combination of blood thinning and vasodilation can create an increased risk of nosebleeds.
  • Irritation. Drinking might cause irritation, especially if we’re allergic to alcohol. Consuming intoxicating beverages may lead to inflammation, which can kick-start a bloody nose.

In other cases, a bloody nose may be symptomatic of a serious condition such as alcoholic liver disease.

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Recurring nosebleeds may be a sign of alcoholic liver disease (ALD), a difficult-to-detect condition with subtle early symptoms. In the beginning stages of ALD (also called fatty liver disease), we may notice vague problems like fatigue, loss of appetite, and stomach pain. While this condition is reversible, it can progress into more severe disorders if left untreated.

Only when the liver sustains serious damage will we experience more overt symptoms such as jaundice, hair loss, and a tendency to bleed easily. Much of that bleeding takes place within the nose. For many people with ALD, frequent nosebleeds are the first sign that something is seriously wrong.

An estimated 90% of heavy drinkers will eventually develop this condition, which is just one possible consequence of heavy alcohol consumption.

Heavy Drinking: Potential Health Risks

Eventually, alcoholic liver disease may progress into cirrhosis and liver failure.

  • Cirrhosis is the medical term for liver scarring. Over time, heavy drinking damages our internal organs, replacing functional, healthy material with fibroids (scar tissue). Many cirrhosis patients present with recurring nosebleeds, which may trigger life-threatening complications like encephalopathy (a broad term for changes to our brain’s functioning) or gastrointestinal bleeding.  
  • Liver failure occurs when cirrhosis has progressed, seriously impacting the organ’s functionality. As our liver shuts down, it stops producing bile and filtering waste. We may begin to experience more bloody noses during this time. Occasionally, epistaxis is mistaken for severe gastrointestinal bleeding in liver failure patients, confusing medical teams and complicating care plans. Recurring nosebleeds are associated with a high mortality rate in patients who do not receive liver transplants.

We know cirrhosis and liver failure can be disturbing to consider, but awareness is crucial, especially if we drink a lot. Remember, the earlier we address warning signs like frequent nosebleeds, the better our outcomes will be.

Stop an Alcohol-Related Nosebleed

If you found this page after a panicked Google search, we’ve got you covered! Whenever you experience a nosebleed after drinking, just follow these three steps.

  1. Tilt your face forward and carefully clear your airways. Stay upright and lean forward to prevent the blood from running down your throat, which can cause stomach upset. Gently blow your nose to remove any blood clots stuck in your nasal passages.
  2. Apply pressure. Pinch both sides of your nose for 10 to 15 minutes to stop the bleeding. Switch to breathing through your mouth. If blood keeps coming, seek medical attention.
  3. Moisturize your nostrils. Daub Vaseline or Neosporin on the inside of your nose. Focus your application on the septum: the thin, rigid line dividing your nostrils. If necessary, consider using ice packs or steam to calm any remaining nasal irritation.

Common environmental triggers of nosebleeds include nose picking, dry air, sinus infections, allergies, blunt trauma, drug use, blood thinners, and alcohol use. If we know our triggers, it’s possible to avoid nosebleeds by limiting contributing factors.

How To Prevent Nosebleeds After Drinking

Do you regularly get a bloody nose after drinking? You’re not the only one! If you’re sick of ruined sheets and stained T-shirts, it may be time to look into these preventative measures.

  • Don’t mess with your nose. Blowing, tissue-stuffing, and picking can all irritate the sensitive tissue lining our nasal cavity. When in doubt, stay out.
  • Humidify your home. Nosebleeds often occur in dry or high-altitude settings. If you find yourself beset with blood, consider using a humidifier to add some much-needed moisture to the air.
  • Moisturize that mucosa. Nasal gels and saline sprays can protect soft tissue from superficial damage. Talk to your doctor before applying any topicals to your nose.
  • Avoid alcohol. If heavy alcohol use is behind your bloody nose, consider quitting or cutting back. In addition to professional help, apps like Reframe can offer the support you need to rethink drinking.

Don’t Ignore a Bloody Nose After Drinking

Let’s roll it back: you’re sitting in bed with that bloody nose, hand clapped to your face, panicking in disbelief. If these nosebleeds become more common, talk to your healthcare provider about potential causes. Be honest with them about your alcohol intake, which could be the reason behind your symptoms.

If you’re ready to rethink your drinking habits, download Reframe, the #1 iOS app for alcohol reduction and cessation. Our science-backed readings and courses offer realistic, effective tactics for reevaluating your relationship with alcohol — and with yourself. Through our strategic partnerships with hundreds of industry experts, we’ve crafted an evidence-based program that really works. Visit the App Store or Google Play to start your journey to sobriety.

Summary FAQs

1. Why does my nose bleed when I drink alcohol?

Alcohol dehydrates us, dilates our blood vessels, interferes with clotting actions, and irritates our body — all classic causes of bloody noses. Prolonged or heavy alcohol intake can also lead to serious conditions like alcoholic liver disease, which may catalyze nose bleeds.  

2. When should you worry about a nosebleed?

Seek medical care for a nosebleed if your nose won’t stop bleeding after more than 30 minutes or if you get nosebleeds more than once per week.

3. Do you bleed more when drinking alcohol?

Yes, you may bleed more while under the influence. Alcohol thins our blood, hampers its clotting, and dilates our blood vessels. Together, these factors can increase bleeding and bruising.

4. Can liver problems cause nosebleeds?

Yes. A bloody nose can be a symptom of serious disorders such as alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver failure.

5. Is alcohol bad for your nose?

Because alcohol is a toxin, it doesn’t do much good for our bodies. Therefore, yes, it’s bad for your nose. It enlarges our pores, breaks capillaries, and can catalyze the growth of extra connective tissue (a lumpy look colloquially called “drinker’s nose”). In addition, alcohol dependence is associated with alcoholic liver disease and frequent nosebleeds.

6. How often is too often for nosebleeds?

Our noses aren’t supposed to bleed! If you start experiencing nosebleeds once per week (or more), schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They can provide insight about potential causes while also advising you about proper nosebleed prevention and treatment. In some cases, doctors may recommend that you cauterize nasal blood vessels to stop recurring bleeding.

7. How do you treat a nosebleed naturally?

If your nose begins to bleed, don’t stress. Take a deep breath. Once you’ve calmed down, lean forward and gently pinch your nostrils. Breathe through your mouth for 5 to 10 minutes and apply consistent pressure. After the bleeding stops, avoid picking your nose, rubbing it, or blowing it. If your nose keeps bleeding for more than 30 minutes, reach out to your primary care physician — especially if you drink heavily, have hemophilia, or take blood thinners.  

Take Control of Your Health With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

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