Why A Hickey Can Be Life-Threatening (& Why You Don't Need To Worry)

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
A teenage boy tragically died of a stroke yesterday in Mexico City after receiving a hickey that resulted in a blood clot that traveled to his brain. The Independent reports that 17-year-old Julio Macias Gonzalez started having convulsions while having dinner with his family. Emergency services were called, but he had died by the time they arrived, the Mexican outlet Hoy reported.
Gonzalez had been with his girlfriend earlier that day. Doctors on the scene told reporters they believed a hickey to be the cause of the blood clot and stroke that killed him.

As strange as that may sound, this isn't the first time a "love bite" has had such results. In fact, two other cases like this have been documented. In those cases, both of the patients (one was a 35-year-old Dutch woman, and the other was a 44-year-old woman in New Zealand) survived. Each woman experienced weakness on only one side of her body prior to the stroke. This is a very common sign of a stroke, which is why doctors recommend you check for weakness in the face and arms if you think someone is having one.

What does this all mean for your next makeout session? The "minor trauma" caused by hickeys can have serious consequences, though it's extremely rare. As the authors of the report on the woman from New Zealand put it, a diagnosis like this one "requires a high index of suspicion."

These (very unlikely) cases aside, it's still totally possible to have a stroke as a young person. Certain conditions (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes) associated with older people and harmful habits (smoking and heavy drinking) can put you at greater risk, but stroke can happen to anyone. Common symptoms (in addition to the aforementioned muscle weakness) include slurred speech, difficulty walking, vision problems, and severe headaches. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, call 911 or hit up the emergency room — whether or not you recently got a hickey.
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