an sneezing into a handkerchief, suffering with a cold, flu, or allergies

Q. I want to thank you for saving me from a most embarrassing situation. I am president of a small corporation and we were making a pitch to an important client. I had been suffering from a cold for about a week and blowing my nose a lot before this critical meeting. Fifteen minutes before we were to start our presentation, I blew my nose and immediately developed a nasty nosebleed.

No matter what I tried to do to stop the bleeding, nothing worked. Then I remembered reading in your column about putting cold keys down the back of the neck. By this point I was desperate and figured I had nothing to lose. Within seconds the bleeding stopped. I don’t know how this trick works, but I sure am grateful!

A. We do not know how it works, either. But so many readers have written about their success, we are sure that this technique does work at least some of the time. Putting a large, cold metal key or ring of keys down the back of the neck to stop a nosebleed is a folk remedy that seems to have come to this country from Europe a long time ago.

Another reader writes:

“I read your column a year ago about stopping a nosebleed by dropping keys down the person’s back. This past Christmas, with the whole family gathered, my sister got a nosebleed. I had been waiting for some time to try this remedy, so I got my mom’s car keys and dropped them down my sister’s back. The nosebleed she’d had for about five minutes was gone instantly. The cold shock made her really tense up, which might be why it worked.

Here’s another take on the same remedy! I have read with interest your columns reporting keys as a solution for nosebleeds. I’ve been reading A Princess Remembers: The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur, an autobiography by Gayatri Devi. In talking about palace guests whom she particularly admired as a child of 11 (in the early 1930s), she describes: “…the especially thrilling Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., the great swashbuckling film star. Later he came to Cooch Behar on a shoot and I had an even more unexpected bit of luck. My nose began to bleed and (he) looked after me and put a key down my back to stop the bleeding.”; I’ve never had nosebleeds but can’t help being intrigued by this lore.

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  1. BJ

    I take magnesium for leg cramps at night, but lately I have been having more frequent nosebleeds in morning when I get up. I have not been eating green leafy vegetables like I used to as I have stage 3 kidney problem and have to stay away from foods with vit. k and vit c. . I take a vitamin supplement for kidney patients and they are very restrictive in the vitamins they contain. I will talk to my Kidney Specialist and ask him about adding more foods that contain the vitamins I seem to be lacking in to stop the nosebleeds. I also have heart failure (quadruple bypass in past and several heart attacks) and the 2 diets for these conditions conflict with each other. Thanks for all the good information from the other comments on this site.

    • Terry Graedon

      When you talk with the kidney specialist, be sure to ask about your magnesium supplement. People with kidney disease are usually told to stay away from extra magnesium.

    • Doris

      I spent hours in the ER for a nose bleed that would not stop! I had my head down & it bled so much it looked like liver… Finally saw the doctor and he stopped it right away. Simple solution that worked fast and you can carry it with you all the time..(Nose Spray)!! It seals the tiny blood vessels that began the bleeding in the first place!

  2. Tambra

    Awesome help..thanks for 12 year old gets them often and one tonight that wouldn’t quit..will try the supplements and the ice down the back deal….and get back with you!

  3. Hue

    Hi everyone, I always have severe nosebleed since 40 years old age. I tried everything. Lasers never worked for me. Cauter in operation room worked 3 months. Then my hht doctor advise me to use N.A.C N-ACETYL-L CYSTEINE 500 mg 3 times a day it seems to be its working. I still have nosebleed but no like an hour.
    Good luck everyone

  4. AZ

    Thank you for such a well-written and thorough response on this topic. My son has always had quite severe nose-bleeds. I will look into all you have recommended.

  5. Tarra R.

    Thank you for sharing this information. I am 34 and started getting nosebleeds about 8 months ago. They have gotten progressively worse, about 4/5 a week now and always in the morning from just the left side of my nose. Sometimes they will wake me up from the drainage in my throat, which is frightening. Especially because the sight, smell or taste of blood nauseates me. I’ve never had a nose bleed until this past year, ever. I went to the doctor and he suggested dry heat in my house as the cause of bleeds. I am from Florida and moved to Asheville NC a little over a year ago. The climate is different for sure so I just assumed that was the cause. However, they seem to be getting worse, and I discovered mold in our walls. This is our second house in Asheville so my nose bleeds started at our first house.
    In my early twenties I used drugs quite a bit, even though it was a long time ago I wonder if this has an effect as well. I’m just having a hard time pin pointing the cause of them since this is new to me. I recently have tried Afrin, although I am concerned about the effects because of what I’ve read and heard about using nasal spray. The cold compress on the back of the neck is something I’ve never heard so I’ll try it, probably tomorrow morning. Thank you!!

  6. angela

    My daughter of 11 yrs old usually got nosebleed during hot weather.i tried using ice pack at the base of her skull and let her drink chlorophyll since it has vit k content from dried did stop after a few minutes.i will continue to let her drink chlorophyll everyday.

  7. B Ellison

    A few months ago I stopped taking extra vitamin C and my nose bleeds started again in the shower. One morning I had a nose bleed and the bleeding stopped after I put my head under the Cold Water. I also take 60 trace minerals,16 vitamins, and 3 EFA’s, extra liquid calcium and selenium.

  8. E.S.

    Alfalfa contains a high concentrate of magnesium. For more info, please read what the post above you says. Very interesting!

  9. Anna

    I have had nosebleeds lasting for 3 hours, back and front, absolutely pouring blood. I now take a magnesium supplement and vitamin K which seems to work for me. Also ice on the back of my neck (a packet of frozen peas).
    Interesting website!

  10. Anne

    Re your article on car keys stopped a nosebleed. They will, but so will putting a pair of scissors (be sure they’re all metal) down the back of your clothing. Place them there, then lay back in a chair or on the sofa to keep them in place.
    I’ve had nosebleeds all of my life (in hosp. twice because of them) and now that I take Plavix, have them quite often. The scissors work every time. It’s amazing!!

  11. Mrs. Schulz

    I am a teacher and students in my room get frequent nosebleeds. Our school nurse drops her keys down the backs of these students and it works perfectly! I have even done it in the classroom to avoid disruptions! I have had a 100% success rate!

  12. Susan

    Jalapenos and spicy food gives my son nosebleeds. We began to give him a vitamin K tablet daily and they stopped.

  13. Ben

    Thanks for the tips of stopping nose bleeds. I have always suffered from nose bleeds since I four years old. Dry air, lack of magnesium or other vitamins or minerals, blowing too hard, etc. would cause this problem. Until now, I never knew that car keys down the neck would stop bleeding. I tried it this morning, actually. I had just blown my nose, when I noticed blood. “Oh no, not again!” I quickly grabbed a wand of keys and tapped them on my neck for about two minutes. Within 1 minute, there was no more bleeding. I suffer from very bad nose bleeds, so this information is VERY helpful, and I thank Mr. & Mrs. Graedon greatly! Thanks!!!
    Remember to pass this information to those who suffer from nose bleeds. Tell them, “Get the keys and put them down your neck.” They will think you’re crazy, but this method works wonders!

  14. hdn

    I’ve had tons of nose bleeds, the worst was for half an hour. But one thing i use while im at home is an ice cold shower. The keys and ice down my spine didn’t work, but i’ve decided to start taking vitamins and i’ll send back how good that works.

  15. Jason H.

    Growing up I found myself in many unpleasant situations, with my nose bleeding at home, in stores, visiting people. It was embarrassing at times, then my Aunt Ruth told me of an old family cure for stopping the nose bleed–it was ALFALFA.
    I just took alfalfa pills for a few days, and no more problems. I hadn’t had a nosebleed in years until one hot summer, I ended up with a little nosebleed, took more alfalfa, and lo and behold, it’s been a few more years and I have not had another one.
    Please do some research on this for me, I am curious as to why and how this works. Does it somehow shrink the blood vessels?
    I hope this helps all those suffering from those awful nosebleeds! J.H.

  16. cs

    I actually “backed into” your site by accident, but thought my story might be able to help someone, which would make up for the absolute horror I have experienced within the last two years.
    Approximately two years ago I developed SEVERE one-sided nosebleeds originating from the sinuses. They were diagnosed as idiopathic (meaning the specialists could find no definitive explanation as to the cause). I had suffered from sinus problems for years and had already had more than one surgery, and the bleeds just happened to be the latest and greatest of the chronic, painful, sometimes debilitating symptoms I had been experiencing.
    I used EVERY trick I had ever heard of (both proven and far-fetched) to stop the bleeding, and I even underwent multiple cauterizations in the ENT clinic. Nevertheless, the nosebleeds got so bad that even after a minimum of one hour using direct pressure (along with all the other emergency recommendations I had received), I would become so physically drained I would eventually be forced to lay a large plastic garbage bag on the floor underneath me and lie down, and many times I would finally fall asleep on the floor, exhausted, while waiting for them to stop completely.
    I eventually ended up in the emergency room and subsequently underwent an embolization procedure in which medication is injected into the blood vessel(s) via a catheter (similar to a heart catheter). The medication causes the vessel(s) to spasm and close off and will many times cure the problem without surgery.
    Luckily, the procedure was a complete success, and I have had no recurrence of heavy free bleeding since that time; however, I am very interested in passing on any information that may help others avoid a similar fate. First of all, my ENT specialist recommended using 1) ice packs to the back of the neck at the base of the skull (mammalian dive response?) and 2) using Afrin nasal spray at the beginning of the nosebleed, or packing the nose with gauze soaked in Afrin if the bleeding continued or increased. (I was told Afrin is a vasoconsticter and may help with bleeding. I have also been informed that Afrin should not be used on a long-term basis, but it made a significant difference using it occasionally to stop the bleeding, as did the ice.
    In addition, a possibility I find fascinating (although it MAY be a coincidence) is the link between nosebleeds and magnesium deficiency. About three weeks ago I began taking magnesium supplements for other, seemingly unrelated, health problems. I have had incredible results with those problems, and the improvements have even been noticed by some of my coworkers. Because of overwhelming response I had to the magnesium (and the apparently extensive effects a deficiency can have), I was doing more research to see whether low magnesium levels could have affected any other health problems I have suffered from. That is when I came across the information on this site (and others) regarding a possible link between low magnesium and nosebleeds. Incredibly, during the months I was suffering from the nosebleeds I had done extensive research online, but do not remember ever seeing a link to magnesium levels until I purposely combined the two words within the same search.
    While my nosebleeds had already been stopped prior to beginning magnesium supplementation, it took a moderately invasive procedure to do so. I would love to think my experience could help someone else.
    In summary, if you you have severe nosebleeds, please be open to (and check with your doctor about): 1) the use of ice packs on the back of the neck; 2) Afrin in moderation or when other methods do not work to stop the bleeding; and 3) the possibility of magnesium deficiency.
    There is a ton of good information on the Internet regarding the best forms to use, and if your doctor is not familiar with the subject already you can run the information by him or her to be sure supplementation will not interfere with anything else you are taking or any health problems you may have. This is supposedly a mineral that is vital for an enormous range of basic functions, is farmed out of the soil without being replenished, and is not replaced in proper amount in the food in which it has been destroyed through processing. As far as I am concerned, it is worth the time to do the research, considering the wide range of ailments that may stem from a deficiency. I know it has made a major difference in my life, and hope it can do the same for others.

  17. J.P.

    The keys work because of the mammalian dive reflex. Cold hits the nerves in the neck, causing the blood vessels to constrict. You might notice your pulse slowing too.
    Dive reflex is why cold water drowning victims are not usually pronounced dead until they are “warm and dead”. Cold water in the face/head (only) area shunts blood to the organs and away from the skin, and slows the metabolism for survival. Vital signs are too weak to detect.
    My info is from water rescue training/experience as a medic.

  18. bill ellison

    Nosebleeds are usually the results of vitamin K and/or vitamin C deficiencies. Increased consumption of green leafy vegetables, reseed colon with Lactobacillus acidophilus (the bacteria will synthesize vitamin K), vitamin C to bowel tolerance, calcium and magnesium at 2,000 Iu per day, alfalfa tablets at 5 t.i.d. with meals and herbs including toad flax (Linaria vulgaris). Info from Dr Joel Wallachs book Let Play Doctor.

  19. SM

    My mother taught me the cold washcloth trick, and like in so many other things, she was right! I worked as an ER nurse for many years, and often would get a cold washcloth for someone while they were still at triage. Often the bleeding stopped within a few minutes. Far exceeds the results from just pinching the nose.

  20. DJ

    My son’s ped says running ice up and down the spine will stop a nose bleed. Same idea as keys, I suppose.

  21. Carla Webbles

    The technique mentioned above, of pressing hard between lip and nose, is also used by actors and singers to stifle inopportune sneezing. From its effect on nosebleeds and sneezing, it apparently distracts your nose.

  22. Denise S.

    I have been plagued by nosebleeds all my life but have never heard of this one. I’ll try it next time though.
    I usually rely on the method my Mother used when I was a kid which is remarkably effective. You place a small piece of note paper (for me about 1 inch by 1 inch square works)that is folded over to make about 3 thicknesses of paper and place this on the gums of your upper teeth. Your top lip will hold it in place and put the needed pressure to stop the bleeding as you go about your business. The bleeding stops quickly and starts to clot.
    If you don’t have any paper handy you can also put pressure for a few seconds on the area above your top lip (between lip and nose) with the side of your index finger. You have to use moderate to strong pressure – enough to put pressure on the upper gums underneath the lip.
    The key to this method seems to be getting enough pressure on that upper gum.

  23. Jeanne V

    I never tried cold car keys, but I know a cold wet wash cloth on the back of the neck works. I have used it on my kids. I had a nephew that had a lot of nosebleeds when he was little and it always worked for him. This year, I was coaching 5th & 6th grade basketball when one of the kids got a bloody nose. I didn’t have a wash cloth, so I used paper towels. It worked. Nose stopped bleeding almost instantly.

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