Altitude & a bloody nose

Updated February 21, 2017

Nose bleeds can occur at high altitudes. The bleeding may be caused by the change in air pressure associated with the change in altitude or the cold dry air common at high altitudes. No matter the cause, the symptoms and treatment of a high altitude bloody nose are the same.


A nose bleed is defined as the discharge of blood from the nostrils. Stay calm during the nose bleed. According to Murray Grossan, M.D., an ear, nose and throat specialist who maintains the website, stress and anxiety raises the blood pressure, complicating the nose bleed.


Stopping the bleeding is the first step. An ice pack across the bridge of the nose can stop the bleeding by reducing the size of the blood vessels in the nose. The nose can also be pinched shut, restricting the blood vessels by the application of pressure. Grossan suggests placing nose drops, such as Neosynephrine, on a small piece of cloth and inserting it into the nose.


For the most part, no one can control the air pressure they encounter at altitude. However, in indoor situations, the temperature and humidity can be controlled. The bedroom is the most important room to keep at a comfortable temperature and humidity.

Chronic Nose Bleeds

Grossan suggests regular applications of antibiotic ointments to the inside of the nose up to three times each day. The antibiotics prevent infections in the breaks in the skin where the bleeding is occurring. Nasal moisturising sprays may help avoid nose bleeds at high altitude by keeping the membranes inside the nostrils moist. Discontinue routine aspirin unless it is being taken under a doctor’s orders. Aspirin thins the blood, increasing the chance of nose bleeds.

Seeking Help

Nose bleeds when first encountering high altitudes shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Chronic nose bleeds that continue, especially after returning to lower elevations, should be checked out by a medical professional.

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About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.