Are Hickeys Dangerous? The Truth About Love Bites

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Are Hickeys Dangerous?
Self, Sex

My partner adores giving me hickeys. I’m actually getting pretty convinced that it’s his way of marking his territory on me. Though I might have to cover them up for my day job, I definitely don’t mind it. They feel good, you know?

As great as hickeys feel, they have their drawbacks that make you wonder if they’re worth it. For instance, you may want to know how to get rid of a hickey if you're going to be around family or your boss.

Lately, I’ve had people tell me that the cute little “love bites” my partner is putting on me might actually come back to bite me. Some even have warned me that they are dangerous.


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I can tell you that hickeys are pretty dangerous to careers, since you can get written up pretty quickly from having these little bruises on your neck. But are hickeys dangerous? 

How are hickeys formed, anyway?

Did you ever wonder what makes your neck turn red and purple after your partner gives you a hickey? When your mouth latches onto skin hard enough and causes enough suction, super-tiny blood vessels called capillaries just under the surface of your skin can rupture.

The rupture then causes the blood from the capillaries to leak into surrounding areas. That’s what causes the bruised look of your neck.

Let’s talk about the rumors that surround hickeys.

People who claim that hickeys are bad news point out that they can cause clots in your major blood vessels and cause a stroke. Some also might tell you that hickeys can cause permanent discoloration or that they can potentially transmit herpes. I’ve even heard some people claim that hickeys can cause cancer!

Scary tales, aren’t they? Well, there’s some good news and some bad news about each rumor. The potential for lethal blood clots is there, but there’s a catch.

Believe it or not, there have been cases where hickeys have caused serious blood clots and strokes in people. When the ruptured capillaries rupture into surrounding areas, blood cells can end up cramming nearby vessels, which in turn causes clots. In very rare cases, this can cause serious issues like a stroke.

So, this urban legend really isn’t a myth. A while back, a 17-year-old boy died of a blood clot that traveled to his brain. The culprit was believed to be a large hickey that his girlfriend gave him.

That being said, you shouldn’t get too worried about hickeys. The chances of you dying from a hickey are seriously small — at least, that’s what Dr. Steinbrech, one of New York City’s top plastic surgeons, has to say.

“Blood clots should be avoided whenever possible,” says Dr. Steinbrech. “Any blood clot can be potentially lethal. However, the chances of dying from a hickey-induced blood clot are very, very low. ”

A bigger worry, though, is oral herpes. Did you ever hear about people getting cold sores after someone gave them a hickey?


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Well, those stories are actually pretty legit. Oral herpes can be spread through hickeys if enough blood vessels break and come into contact with the herpes simplex virus. Oral herpes is not the same as genital herpes, but it’s still not something that you want to contract if you can avoid it.

Though a very large percentage of adults will get oral herpes, people who don’t have it should take precaution to avoid it if at all possible. If you see someone with a cold sore, you might want to avoid letting them give you a hickey.

The most common issue that you will have if you get hickeys is scarring and permanent discoloration.

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When blood vessels burst, you’re dealing with an injury. Unsurprisingly, the injuries with hickeys tend to be pretty superficial. Scarring happens when your injuries don’t fully heal as well as they could. Skin gets a bit tougher, and a little bit discolored as a result.

The key thing to remember is that the severity of the hickey matters when it comes to the chances of scarring. Most light love bites will not lead to scarring, especially if they’re light.

On the other hand, if you have a guy who goes full Nosferatu on your neck, there’s a small chance that you might end up with permanent damage.

Overall, hickeys are risky but not usually lethal.

Are hickeys dangerous? As bad as it is to hear, hickeys are actually not that good for you. They can lead to serious damage that could make you get hurt, sick, or just scarred up. However, there is some good news. The chances of this actually happening are low — very low.

So, does this mean you have to say no to hickeys? Well, it’s all up to you. All sexual activity, even kissing, comes with some level of risk. If we all said no to sexual stuff, we wouldn’t last long as a species, would we? If you don’t like the risks, don’t let your partner do it to you.


RELATED: Getting A Hickey Can Lead To A Stroke So Um, Be Careful


Ossiana Tepfenhart is a Jack-of-all-trades writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey. When she's not writing, she's drinking red wine and chilling with some cool cats. You can follow her @bluntandwitty on Twitter.