Introduction to salmon patches:

Angel kisses and stork bites are among the picturesque names given to these very common birthmarks. Parents often worry that these will last a lifetime or get darker with time – the opposite tends to be true. They are tiny windows into the past.

What are they?

Salmon patches (nevi simplex) are dilated capillaries in the skin. They are not new capillaries or new growths, but leftover patches of the way the blood vessels looked during fetal circulation.

These are different birthmarks than hemangiomas or port wine stains; salmon patches are also more common.

Who gets them?

Before birth, every child has salmon patches. By the time a baby is born, only about one third do.

What are the symptoms?

Salmon patches appear as flat, dull pink patches. Most commonly they occur at the nape of the neck (stork bites), between the eyebrows or over the eyelids (angel kisses), or around the nose or mouth.

Because they are collections of blood vessels in the skin, they tend to look darker or redder when a baby is crying, excited, or upset. This may even be true after the patch has seemed to have disappeared.

Are they contagious?


How long do they last?

Salmon patches are present at birth (and before). The great majority disappear, usually within the first year. Those around the hairline at the back of the neck (called “Unna’s nevus”) are the most likely to remain.

How are they diagnosed?

Salmon patches are diagnosed by their appearance and location.

How are they treated?

No treatment is generally necessary. The overwhelming majority disappear with no treatment. Of those that do not, most are in a location that is covered by hair.

How can they be prevented?

No prevention is necessary.

Related concepts:

Angel kiss, Stork bites, Nevus simplex, Telangiectatic nevus, Unna’s nevus.

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Alan Greene MD contributor

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