A stork bite — known medically as nevus simplex — is a type of birthmark that may be present on the nape of a newborn’s neck. It is also known as a salmon patch or angel kiss. It is usually temporary and not dangerous.
A stork bite is relatively common and not dangerous. Its name comes from the myth that storks deliver babies. Legend has it that the patch on the nape of the neck may indicate where the stork picked up the baby.
In this article, we discuss stork bites, their appearance, and whether they affect a child’s health. We also look at the causes and treatments.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
A stork bite is a type of capillary malformation. A capillary malformation occurs when small blood vessels in the skin are atypically dilated (stretched), according to experts.
A stork bite is usually faint and patchy, with undefined or feathery borders. They tend to look red or pink on light and dark skin, according to the U.K. National Health Service.
People typically have stork bites on the nape of the neck. This kind of birthmark, a nevus simplex, can also appear in the following places:
- the upper eyelids
- the forehead between the eyes
- either side of the nose
They may also appear on the top lip.
A patch may change color slightly or become more noticeable in appearance when the baby cries. This may also occur if a person applies pressure to the area.
Stork bites usually disappear within 1–2 years. They may occasionally reappear later in life in some scenarios, such as when a person:
- holds their breath
- strains during a bowel movement
- does an intense physical workout
Some stork bites on the nape of the neck may not disappear. These become less visible as hair grows and covers them, and they are not a cause for concern.
Stork bites do not affect a child’s health. They are usually temporary and do not indicate any underlying health conditions.
Research from 2020 does state that, in some cases, there may be a connection between stork bites and the Meyerson phenomenon. This is when an eczema reaction circles around a preexisting skin lesion, 2019 research explains. Doctors do not currently know why this occurs.
Further research from 2018 indicates there may be a possible link between stork bites on the nape of the neck and alopecia areata, a type of patchy hair loss. However, researchers also state that they must do further studies to make a firm conclusion.
The cause of a stork bite is due to the dilation of blood vessels during fetal development.
When blood vessels remain stretched, a patch form on the skin. This is due to the increased blood flow to that area.
Research from 2015 states that stork bites affect male and female newborns equally.
Treatment is not usually necessary for newborns with a stork bite. It tends to go away on its own and is harmless. However, some people may have treatment for cosmetic reasons if it does not fade over time.
A dermatologist can offer a pulsed laser dye treatment. The red, pink, or purple color of the stork bite absorbs the narrow laser light, which should reduce the color.
However, doctors do not usually carry out this treatment for stork bites because they are not as severe as other forms of birthmark, such as port wine stains or hemangiomas.
Hemangiomas and stork bites are both birthmarks that develop due to an atypical structure of the blood vessels.
However, hemangiomas develop due to extra blood vessels that form in a clump somewhere in the body, and stork bites occur due to dilating blood vessels in one area.
These two birthmarks do not look the same. The biggest difference is that stork bites are flat whereas hemangiomas are raised, and people can feel them when they touch the skin.
A stork bite usually appears in the four common areas described above. A hemangioma can occur anywhere on the body.
Although both are common in newborns, a hemangioma may not necessarily be present from birth. It can develop within the first few weeks or months of life. A hemangioma may grow for approximately 6–9 months, then lose its color and get smaller.
Around 50% of hemangiomas disappear by age 5 and 90% by age 9 without treatment, according to 2014 research.
In rare cases, a hemangioma can become a sore, which may develop an infection, be painful, and bleed.
Learn more about hemangiomas, including what they look like.
Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about stork bites.
Do stork bites go away?
Usually, stork bites disappear within the first couple of years of life. In some cases, they may not go away. However, if the stork bite is at the nape of the neck, it will soon have hair covering it.
Are stork bites a sign of infection?
Stork bites are harmless and are not a sign of any infections.
How common are stork bites?
Vascular-related birthmarks occur in around 30% of newborns.
In a 2019 survey, researchers looked at 1,000 newborns in Thailand. They concluded that stork bites were the most common vascular birthmarks identified in these newborns.
If a person notices their newborn has a stork bite, they should point it out to a healthcare professional. Doctors usually conduct a physical examination of the child after birth, so they will likely identify a stork bite immediately.
A person should reach out to a doctor or medical professional if a stork bite:
- becomes larger
- drastically changes color
- becomes swollen or raised
Stork bites are marks on the skin that appear on the nape of the neck at birth.
Stork bites are not a sign of any underlying condition and are relatively common in newborns. They develop due to the dilation of blood vessels. They are harmless and usually go away within the first few years of life without treatment.
A person should consider taking their child to a doctor if a stork bite becomes larger, changes color, or becomes swollen and raised.