The People's Perspective on Medicine

To Stop a Nosebleed, the Key Is Cold on the Neck

Home remedies that apply cold on the neck in the form of keys, a cold butter knife or a pack of frozen peas, can help staunch a nosebleed.

We have heard from scores of people over the years about their methods for stopping nosebleeds. One favorite method sounds bizarre: dangling keys down the back of the neck. We recently got an explanation from a physician on why this works. You need to get something cold on the neck.

The Key Is Cold on the Neck:

Q. You’ve written about putting keys on the back of the neck to stop nosebleeds. That makes the issue sound mysterious, but it really isn’t.

Keys are commonly cold. I was taught in medical school to apply a cold face towel, preferably with ice cubes, at the back of the head or even directly on the nose. This usually works. The common element is ‘cold.’

A. We have heard from many people that holding keys on the back of the neck can help stop a nosebleed. These reports mostly date from a time when keys, even car keys, were made of metal and would usually be cold. Others told us of keeping a butter knife in the freezer to apply to the back of the neck in the event of a nosebleed. As you note, in  all these approaches a person applies something cold on the neck.

Ice Collars to Stop Nosebleeds:

A study published in the American Journal of Rhinology (July-Aug. 2006) reported that “ice collars” significantly reduce blood flow to the nose. 

The authors note that this

“may provide the basis for the clinical observation that ice collars are helpful in the treatment of nosebleeds.”

We always love it when science demonstrates that an old wives’ tale is actually sound. In this case, cold on the neck, whether in the form of house keys, frozen peas or an ice pack, can help stop a nosebleed.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Scheibe M et al, "Studies on the effects of ice collars on nasal blood volume using optical rhinometry." American Journal of Rhinology, July-Aug. 2006.
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