The shade of your snot can reveal a lot about what's happening inside your nose. For instance, white, yellow or green nasal mucus can mean a cold or infection.
So, what if your snot's streaked with red blood? While most cases of bloody boogers are no biggie, sometimes they can indicate something more serious, like an underlying health condition.
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Here, Philip Chen, MD, FARS, an associate professor of otolaryngology and rhinology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, shares the most common reasons for your sanguine-stained snot and what to do if you see blood in your mucus.
If your nose is bleeding heavily, there's a nasal blockage or you have pain and/or facial symptoms (in addition to bleeding) that persists for weeks, see your doctor for an evaluation, as these may be signs of a serious medical issue such as a tumor or autoimmune disease, Dr. Chen says.
1. You Blew Your Nose Too Hard
Blowing your honker too hard could bring about bloody nasal discharge.
Here's why: "The nasal lining is very delicate and has a very robust blood supply," Dr. Chen says. "And when you blow your nose hard, there's a rapid and significant increase in blood pressure," he explains. This sudden rise in pressure can rupture or tear some of the fragile blood vessels, resulting in small amounts of blood in the mucus.
These bloody boogers commonly occur when you're blowing or rubbing your nose a lot (read: when you're dealing with a cold or allergies).
Fix it: "Generally speaking, this is not a dangerous or concerning situation," Dr. Chen says. To repair broken blood vessels (and help prevent future problems), try moisturizing your nasal passages using a humidifier, saline nasal spray or saline nasal gels, he says. And take it easy on the tissues going forward (if you're trying to dislodge deep boogers, there are better ways.)
2. Your Nasal Passage Is Dry or Irritated
If you live in an arid environment like a desert (think: Phoenix or Las Vegas), you might notice more blood streaks in your snot.
Yep, dry climates cause dry, irritated noses, Dr. Chen says. That's because each time we breathe in, dry air dries up normal mucus in the nose, and eventually irritates the nasal lining, he says.
"Dry air can also occur from turning on the air conditioner, and worse, the heater," Dr. Chen adds. "That's why nosebleeds are often more common in winter," he says.
If you have dried blood in your nose every morning, it's likely the air in your bedroom is too dry.
Fix it: Again, moisturizing the nose with humidifiers and saline nasal sprays or gels can help, Dr. Chen says.
3. You Have a Sinus Infection
A sinus infection (also called sinusitis) could be the cause of your crimson-colored mucus. Often set off by a cold or allergies, sinusitis occurs when your sinus cavities become inflamed, blocked and filled with fluid, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
And sometimes you have "blood in thick mucus (often pus) in the setting of a sinus infection," Dr. Chen says.
In addition to nasal discharge (which can also be yellow or green in color), other common symptoms of sinusitis include, per the Cleveland Clinic:
- Post-nasal drip
- Stuffy nose
- Facial pressure (particularly around the nose, eyes and forehead), headache and/or pain in your teeth or ears
- Halitosis (bad breath)
Fix it: Depending on the severity, sinusitis can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants, cold and allergy medications as well as nasal saline irrigation (which helps wash out thick mucus), according to the Cleveland Clinic.
But if your symptoms persist for more than 10 days, your doctor may need to prescribe you a stronger medication like an antibiotic or intranasal steroid spray.
4. You’re Taking Certain Medications
Blood-spattered snot can also be a side effect of taking certain medicines.
"Medication that thins the blood and prevents clotting can result in bloody crusts," Dr. Chen says. For instance, aspirin, non-steroidal pain medicine, clopidogrel and coumadin all fall into this blood-thinning category, he says.
In addition, "some herbal supplements like ginkgo, fish oil and ginseng can also increase risk of bleeding while nasal sprays like fluticasone can dry out [and irritate] nasal passages in some patients," Dr. Chen says.
Fix it: If you suspect your medication is making your mucus a bit bloody, speak with your doctor, who may be able to prescribe you an alternative. And to manage the symptoms in the meantime, keep your nose moisturized.
5. You Have an Underlying Health Condition
Though unusual, sometimes blood-streaked boogers are the result of rare autoimmune disorders.
"Some autoimmune diseases like granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly called Wegener's) and Sjogren's syndrome can result in thick, dry nasal crusts," Dr. Chen says. "These patients often have some streaks of blood in the crusts due to the ongoing irrigation of the mucosa," he explains.
Fix it: While these conditions are fairly uncommon, talk to your doctor if you experience ongoing nasal problems, especially if you have a family history of autoimmune disease, Dr. Chen says. Your physician will be able to perform a proper assessment to rule out (or diagnose) any underlying health conditions.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.