Sometimes in visual media the writers need to indicate a character is dying or severely injured or sick, but often without any actual visible trauma. So how do they do it?
With a deadly nosebleed, of course! A character who is dying from something invisible, from sonic weapons to stress from time travel will often sport a nosebleed as a visual clue to the audience that this character is not well, and is probably going to die. This may also include blood from the ears or even eyes as it progresses. A character who has just received massive physical trauma, but has no visible injuries, or who is about to die from an illness or medical condition may also sport a nosebleed.
Recurring nosebleeds, especially when they are Psychic Nosebleeds, can indicate cumulative damage, particularly to the brain.
This convention may come from people with extremely high blood pressure developing nosebleeds or from people about to suffer from a stroke suffering spontaneous nosebleeds. It can also be a real side effect of radiation poisoning.
See Nosebleed for when nosebleeds are brought on by physical arousal (usually Played for Laughs) and Psychic Nosebleed, a sign of intense psychic effort. May overlap with the related Blood from the Mouth. See Incurable Cough of Death when a character's death due to illness is heralded by coughing.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
- Nataru from Birdy the Mighty is weakened as a result of using his jump capability and is shown in a few scenes like this.
- Used to foreshadow a Game-Breaking Injury in Great Teacher Onizuka.
- Shinji gets shot with a particle beam in the fifth episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion. When they pull him out of the plug, he's visibly bleeding from his nose.
- In Attack on Titan, Eren Yeager develops a nose bleed after overusing his powers. In a later flashback, this comes up again when his namesake, Eren Kruger begins bleeding profusely from his nose after demonstrating his powers. He explains that the cause is the Power of the Titans slowly consuming the host over the course of 13 years. Having reached his limit, Kruger explained that he was dying and needed to pass his powers on to a successor — Eren's father, Grisha Yeager.
- As the main character in The Butterfly Effect travels in time more frequently, he starts to have nosebleeds, indicating the brain damage he's suffering.
- While it did show her other injuries, in Pan's Labyrinth, Ophelia has one right after she gets shot.
- The first Iron Man movie has Obadiah using a hand-held paralyzer. It causes paralysis, blue veins on the skin, and blood from the nose.
- An overlap with Psychic Nosebleed occurs in The Film of the Book Firestarter by Stephen King. Charlie's dad, the more he uses "The Push", gives himself pinpoint brain hemorrhages that cause nosebleeds.
- Primer has bleeding from the ears as a symptom of sickness from time travel.
- Gandalf sports one of these during his battle against the Balrog in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings.
- In Heroic Trio, one of the indications that a character's boyfriend is dying from radiation exposure is that he has increasing nosebleeds.
- Each of the deaths in the film Valentine ends with the dead person being shown with blood running from their nose.
- Shows up in Pacific Rim, but isn't immediately recognisable since it's depicted alongside the Psychic Nosebleed. Stacker Pentecost gets them frequently, and turns out to be dying of cancer because the Mark I Jaeger he used to pilot was assembled so hastily that they forgot to include radiation shielding.
- XX: In "Her Only Living Son", Cora and Andy both develop nosebleeds when they are hugging, attempting to withstand Satan's assault on them. They die.
- A Deleted Scene in God's Army has Elder Dalton suddenly getting a nosebleed riding in a car, and he dies later that night.
- In Enemy Lines I - Rebel Dream, an unwilling spy for the Yuuzhan Vong, Tam Elgrin, is subject to a variation. Elgrin had been captured previously by the Yuuzhan Vong, and was released with a biological implant. Failure to comply with his given orders (or even thinking about betraying the Yuuzhan Vong) triggered the implant, delivering intense headaches which would eventually reach lethal levels if he continued to resist. The first obvious outward sign is a nosebleed, though other signs soon manifest themselves. At the end of the book, he chooses to let the implant kill him rather than follow orders to kidnap Jaina Solo. He's saved from death before the implant can kill him.
- In Darkness Visible the first outward sign that Lewis has made too many ventures at Wandsworth Prison is a nose bleed. When he pushes his luck even further in Hyde Park he not only gets another nose bleed but also starts crying blood.
- In the Horus Heresy audio book of the same name, the Butcher's Nails implants in Angron's brain cause him to bleed frequently from his nose and ears.
- Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell features a variant. When Theopolis slaps Silence, the resulting nosebleed isn't directly fatal. But it is blood shed in anger, exposed to the open air, and that is the strongest of the three Berserk Buttons for the lethal Shades. This proves very deadly indeed for Theopolis.
- Humans kissed by Maxima die of a pheromone overdose, starting with a nosebleed.
- Chloe gets one when she uses her Brainiac abilities to activate a Kryptonian crystal. She didn't die, but came close.
- In Lost, characters suffering the ill effects of time travel start sporting nosebleeds shortly before they die. Poor Charlotte. Nose and ear bleeds are also a visible symptom of trying to cross the sonic fence around the Others' compound.
- Michael Scofield in Prison Break has a recurring and ultimately terminal medical condition that sometimes manifests as nosebleeds.
- Charlie's brain tumor's main symptom is a nosebleed.
- Hiro gets nosebleeds when trying to use his powers when they don't naturally belong to him anymore, so his body is rejecting them.
- This is the first symptom of victims of the Hands of Blue's sonic weapon in Firefly.
- In an episode of Fringe, the first symptom of a strange and deadly virus is a nosebleed. The writers obviously like this trope - if you have anything vaguely wrong with you, chances are you'll have a deadly nosebleed.
- Episode 3-6 of Six Feet Under starts with a woman dying from a nosebleed while in line to attend a TV show taping.
- Used in the third season of 24 to show the symptoms of the cordilla virus.
- This is the only visible symptom of Scully's cancer in The X-Files.
- In three episodes of The X-Files (Pilot, The Blessing Way, and Memento Mori), nosebleeds are shown as an indication of nasal implants inserted by aliens.
- This UK Public Service Announcement on the dangers to talking on a cellphone while driving.
- The League of Gentlemen.
- Cracker. A woman lures a loan shark into an alley so her boyfriend can murder him, by sneaking up behind and cracking his skull with a brick. The impact is shown by his face going slack and a droplet of blood from his nose, before he collapses.
- Little House on the Prairie. Albert suffers from unexplained nosebleeds that denotes his short time on this Earth.
- The first sign of viral infection in a season two episode of La Femme Nikita.
- Game of Thrones:
- Played with. After some Foe Yay flirting, Tyene Sand starts exposing herself to sellsword Bronn, imprisoned like her in the cell opposite. Bronn's Male Gaze POV goes blurred and he starts bleeding from the nose, but not from sexual arousal. Tyene cut him with a Poisoned Weapon earlier, and is using Bronn's arousal to increase his heart rate and accelerate the spread of poison. Fortunately she's only messing with him, and gives him the antidote. Played straight at the end of the season when Princess Myrcella collapses after a similar nosebleed, having been given the same poison during a parting Kiss of Death (the poisoner is shown taking the antidote afterwards).
- Happens to Joffrey during his final minutes, clearly indicating that the poison has claimed his life.
- In Redrum327 Jeongun gets one just before he dies of being poisoned.
- In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution this is a sign that an esper has overused their talents and needs to cool it before something terrible happens. They're also depicted in some of the books artwork.
- First person shooters with status bar faces (Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Quake, you name it) almost always have these when the player character is injured.
- Enemies in Quake II display injuries (mostly this) as a sign that their health is lower than half.
- Heavy Rain: Norman Jayden tends to get nosebleeds quite frequently as the game progresses, and when he does, it's always indicative that he is going into withdrawal.
- One of the symptoms of Teif Bleu in Ever17, along with Blood from Every Orifice.
- One of the symptoms of the titular "Rapture" in Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. Other symptoms include headaches and flecks of "liquid light" in your blood.
- Played for laughs in Family Guy during the "Bird Is the Word" episode. Peter has been playing the record non-stop since he got it, and the rest of his family is becoming increasingly annoyed/unhinged as a result. At one point, Brian and Stewie are sitting on the sofa, looking exhausted, when Stewie mentions that he doesn't feel well and his nose starts to bleed.
Peter: *to busboy* GIMME COCAINE!!!
- Another episode has Peter trying to regain a cold he had which made his voice so deep and sexy that Lois kept begging him for sex. One of the things he tried was licking Lindsey Lohan's dessert fork. He promptly starts bleeding from the nose and ears, demands cocaine, and in the next scene, he's gotten deadly ill (though unfortunately, not from the illness he wanted).
Peter: Stewie, if you're fine with it, bleed from the nose!Stewie: *bleeds from the eye*Peter: Thats pretty close, right?
- A third episode deals with Peter and Lois trying to make Stewie a famous actor, and as part of this, Peter gives him a mix of Three Hour Energy, and a tiny amount of cocaine to keep his energy levels up. When Brian calls them on how horrible this is, we get this exchange:
- Attila the Hun died of a nosebleed. Whether he literally died from the nosebleed (i.e., choking on his own blood in a drunken stupor) or if it were just a symptom of something more serious internally is up to debate.
- There are said to be certain techniques in kung fu that can induce death from bleeding out of seven orifices (eyes, mouth, ears, and nose).note
- People with clotting disorders such as hemophilia can actually die from a nosebleed.
- Unexplained bleeding from the nose (or ears or, in extreme cases, eyes) can be a sign of severe internal injuries and/or head trauma. The ear-bleed tends to be considered the most worrying of the bunch (nosebleeds can have other explanations, which are more common and less worrying, while eyebleeds are rare outside of high pressure trauma).
- As mentioned above, a nosebleed which won't stop can also indicate high blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke if not dealt with.