When you stop to think about it, phrases like, “I love you so much, I’m going to eat you up,” and biting someone’s neck so hard it draws blood, are a little strange. Still, despite the frank oddity of the practice, many of us have worn a physical reminder of our time between the sheets on our necks. But the recent death of a Mexican teenager raises the specter of love bites possibly posing more danger than anyone knows. Can hickeys cause blood clots, strokes and more? It may happen rarely — but it does happen.
Can Hickeys Cause Blood Clots?
When it comes to answering the question of, “can hickeys cause blood clots,” the answer is yes. Yes, the chances of such an event occurring are very slim. However, when your life is on the line, is it worth risking it for physical evidence you got lucky the night before?
As one recent headline shares, 17-year-old Julio Macias Gonzalez received a hickey from his girlfriend. The hickey caused a clot that traveled to Macias Gonzalez’s brain where it caused a fatal stroke. He went into convulsions over dinner and later died.
This isn’t the only reported case of a hickey causing such a complication. In 2011, a 44-year-old New Zealand woman experienced weakness in an arm following a hickey. Fortunately, in her case, she recovered fully after seeking medical care, but her doctor, who treated her with blood thinners, diagnosed her with stroke.
For many, the occasional hickey likely poses little risk. However, for those already at risk of stroke disorder, such as people with migraine disease, especially certain rare variants, the overweight and those at risk for heart disease do well to avoid these tokens of physical love. Even though the risk nevertheless remains slim, the effects of stroke can be life-altering even if not immediately fatal.
Women should take care to avoid hickeys while pregnant, especially if they already experience high blood pressure related to their condition. Additionally, those at risk for certain disorders like deep vein thrombosis also do well to pass on overly rough foreplay, which can lead to potential clots, especially if they have an upcoming flight. The clots can block the veins of the legs during a flight due to pressure changes and lack of physical movement.
What Other Adverse Health Effects Can Hickeys Cause?
When you get a hickey, you create an injury to your circulatory system. Your circulatory system consists of your heart, arteries, veins and capillaries, and is responsible for carrying nourishment and oxygen to all the cells of our body, including, of course, our brains.
Hickeys and bruises occur through similar mechanisms — both consist of broken capillaries near the skin’s surface — so it’s tempting to think of hickeys as no more harmful than bumping your knee accidentally. In some ways, this is true — however, the difference in the mechanism may increase risk. Additionally, as many hickeys occur on the neck, where veins are closer to the surface, more serious injuries can occur.
Indeed the proximity of surface veins is a good reason for those with other risks of heart disease to pass on neck biting. Women who are overweight or have diabetes do well to pass on this type of play, as are post-menopausal women whose thinner skin increases the injury risk.
In addition to increased stroke risk, getting a hickey can mean getting a comorbid diagnosis of herpes. Researchers found the herpes simplex I virus in the hickey of a man whose partner had fever blisters when she gave his neck the Nosferatu nibble. It remains unknown if herpes simplex II, the virus which causes genital herpes, can be transmitted the same way.
Finally, while this is a cosmetic concern more than a health one, hickeys can leave scars, particularly if the teeth were involved. In general, those with very fair skin are most at risk for scarring, although anyone can. Staying hydrated can help ease the duration of the hickey somewhat, but no topical ointment can eliminate scarring.
Are Love Bites Dangerous?
It would be disingenuous to suggest getting a hickey constitutes a high-risk behavior. While yes, oral herpes can be transmitted via this method, people become infected through kissing their dear old Aunt Edna when she has a cold sore, too. And while the risk of stroke from a clot does exist — apparently even among the very young and healthy — with only two recent incidents, it’s safe to say the risks remain low.
Can hickeys cause blood clots? Yes, but it’s unlikely. Still, when it comes to health, proceeding with caution makes for best practice. Those at an elevated risk do well to avoid rough neck foreplay, and those who find themselves thinking twice after learning the risks may find the prospect less appealing now. There are a million and one ways to get your freak on without bloodletting becoming a part of the play.