Q. I have read in your column that people put keys down the back of the neck to stop a nosebleed. This is extremely unclear. What does “drop them down the back of the neck” mean? I interpret this as dangling them DOWN someone’s throat. Could that be possible? It seems quite a choking risk to me!

A. DO NOT put keys down your throat! They should go down the back of the neck under the shirt collar. Take a look at the photo on our Web site for clarification (www.peoplespharmacy.com).

A reader recently shared this story: “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 percent success rate!”

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  1. VB

    I think it would “lower credibility” to NOT list or have an article about some of the more non-conventional treatments. Just because maybe you think the key down the back is hokey, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. I found out about the key down the back for nosebleeds from this website, and it’s the only remedy that has worked for me. So hey, if you don’t care for an article, there’s plenty more to choose from. As the saying goes, “if you don’t like it, then don’t look at it.”

  2. djd

    @JMA | May 25, 2010 3:24 AM
    Metal doesn’t “retain cold”. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
    Metal merely FEELS cold because it is an efficient conductor of heat energy.
    Being a better conductor it is better able to transfer heat AWAY from your skin than insulators (like cotton or wool).
    This is also why when two items (one metal and one wood or another heat-insulator) both sitting at room temperature, the metal item will feel colder than the insulator.
    Metal’s ability to transfer heat energy readily is also why it’s used in mechanical devices to transfer heat away (radiators), and used for the same purpose in electronic devices (heat-sinks).

  3. Mg

    Any cold on the back of the neck will cause your vascular temperature to drop and your blood vessels will contract, therefore easing or stopping a nose bleed. As someone else said it’s the mammalian dive reflex. Nothing weird or wacky and well documented and proven. I guess keys are probably suggested as they are usually to hand and will feel cold. An ice pack or cold compress would probably work better.

  4. TW

    Well put, KD. Wish I could remember to say the same to my doubting Thomas of a husband, who only believes ‘science’ at whatever stage of the proof/disproof continuum it is.

  5. elaine

    If your daughter is prone to nosebleeds she might be like me – and have to actually get the vessels w/in her nose cauterized due to them being too close to the surface. I had to have it done approximately 3 times by KAISER doctors – and finally my nosebleeds are something of the past. Since childhood I would get nosebleeds – and by the time I hit Los Angeles it became a daily event due to the dry air. Never smoked or did drugs, 35 years old – and nosebleeds galore!
    So for your daughter if you haven’t done so already, take her to a Head and Neck doctor in Otolaryngology and get that problem cauterized! The pain is very little – they should first numb the sight(s) w/in the nose before cauterization. Though I did find the procedure uncomfortable, I’m in heaven not having nosebleeds anymore. She might be like me and have to have such a treatment repeated a couple of times until it takes for good. Cauterizing your nasal vessels does nothing to the exterior appearance of your nose.
    Keys or any of the like would not work for people like us..
    Good luck (and good riddance to those chronic nosebleeds) ..

  6. JCICB

    ummmmm who would be stupid enough to interpret this as putting them down your throat. Even if that dumb idea were the case, I think I would just ride out the nose bleed.

  7. Cathie D

    This is a topic that comes up periodically. Apparently something called the “dive reflex” explains why keys at the back of the neck stop nose bleeds. It is not so much the keys, it is putting something cold on the back of the neck. Keys are metal and tend to be cold and are readily available.
    See http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2008/04/28/why-cold-keys-s/

  8. KD

    Why the bee in your bonnet, Barb S? Do you really know why many things in our world work? You may prefer some logical or scientific reason as to why something “works”, but it doesn’t matter why as long as it works.
    BTW, just because something doesn’t work all the time for everybody doesn’t invalidate it’s truth. Does every medicine work for everybody all the time? Open yourself up a little to the mysteries of life and you may find you receive more than you could ever expect.

  9. JB

    My daughter was prone to nose bleeds. I heard about the keys placed down the back of the neck. It has worked wonders as long as they are cold. Although I have not read anything about the science to support it but it really doesn’t matter as long as it works. Even if it is a placebo effect I don’t care. Not to mention there are no side effects as long as you don’t try to use the car keys that are in the ignition while you are driving…

  10. Barb S.

    Why lower your credibility by posting unproven remedies on your site, like keys down the neck or soap for leg cramps? Unless you have some idea of WHY a remedy works, don’t push it. Yes, there are a lot of gullible people out there, but don’t prey on them.
    Most of your stuff is good but I get tired of seeing the same thing over and over. Novelty keeps it interesting.
    Current research on Vitamin D3 is really exciting. Why not cover more about the many ways it can make life better for so many of us, especially as we age?

  11. s garner

    As a young boy and into his teens, my son always had horrific nosebleeds. Even after cauterizations the nose bleeds were still strong and would start quite unexpectedly.
    I happened to read in your column one Sunday about dropping keys down the back to stop the bleeding. Luckily, in the midst of one of the worst nosebleeds he had had to date (gushing with clots and all over us and the floor), I remembered what I had read & sent my daughter to grab my car keys.
    Of course, the kids thought I had really lost it this time, but after dropping the keys down his back twice the bleeding immediately ceased. From that time on whenever a nose bleed would start we grabbed keys and immediately dropped them down his back and if I wasn’t around, he would do it himself. I cannot begin to imagine why this works, but it has worked every time I have needed to use it.
    My son & I cannot say thank you enough!

  12. jawga

    My question is, do you HOLD the keys at the back of the neck near the shirt collar, or do you actually let go of the keys and let them DROP down the back of the shirt, which would probably make them land at the back of the waist?

  13. JMA

    I think this works because metal keys retain cold. I am very susceptible to gushing nosebleeds. Years ago someone stopped it by bringing a washcloth rinsed in cold water and put it on the back of my neck. At home, now, when I get a nosebleed, I reach for one of those blue cold packs that I keep in the freezer.

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