Regular tampons are items that women use to soak up menstrual blood inside the body. Nasal tampons perform the same function but in the nose, to stop nosebleeds. Typically a nasal tampon is only necessary in serious nosebleeds that require medical attention. Commercial nasal tampons are usually made of sponge-like material and fit entirely inside the nose.
Most often, a person with a nosebleed can stop the bleeding with a simple nose pinching until the blood clots and stops bleeding. Sometimes, however, a nosebleed can be continuous and does not respond to home remedies. In this situation, medical treatment is required.
A doctor may apply pressure to the nose, and tell the patient to keep his or her head forward, in the same manner as a home remedy, but the doctor typically also inserts material into the nose to encourage the blood to clot. Sometimes the doctor uses surgical gauze dipped in ointment, but another possible option is a commercial nasal tampon.
The procedure that a doctor follows to pack the nasal cavity with gauze is relatively complex, as he or she has to arrange the gauze in layers inside the nose. As nasal packing generally has to stay inside the nose for several days, the gauze can also become stuck to the dried blood and cause pain on removal. Commercial nasal tampons are generally made of a sponge material, which can resist sticking better than gauze.
Another advantage to nasal tampons over gauze is that the sponge fits properly inside the nasal cavity. The doctor does not need to pack in gauze, but simply place one sponge inside the nose. At first, the sponge is compact, but when it absorbs blood, it grows in shape to fit the cavity, much like a regular menstrual tampon.
Unlike a menstrual tampon, which has a retrieval string that hangs out outside the body, a nasal tampon sits entirely inside the nose, and so is unobtrusive. The insertion and the extraction process can be mildly painful for patients. Lubricant can help ease the insertion process, and another option is a painkilling spray into the nose before the nasal tampon goes in.
Other possible medical solutions to serious nosebleeds include cauterization of the weakened blood vessel inside the nose. A balloon that a doctor inserts and then inflates can also stop a bout of bleeding. Gel that turns into a foam inside the nose is another packing option.