What is this unexplained mark on my friend's neck?
August 14, 2008 12:46 PM   Subscribe

What could have caused this weird mark on my friend's neck? It started out as a red patch, then turned into this... half-flower/sun-shaped thing! Picture.

She said it hurt a little when it was just red and blotchy (this lasted about half a day), but ever since it turned "flowery" it hasn't really hurt. It has been like this for almost two days now.

We're not worried as such, just really puzzled as to what could've caused this particular shape, so I was hoping someone here may go "oh I got exactly that mark when I...."

Additional data points:
- she wasn't drunk when it happened (& no one else was involved)
- close up it looks kinda like an abrasion more than a burn
- she first noticed the red patch when she woke up in the morning
- she considered it may be caused by her hot water bottle but that doesn't explain the shape
- we're in the South of England so no big scary spiders etc (I think...)
posted by ClarissaWAM to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:53 PM on August 14, 2008

Does she wear any jewelery to bed? Earrings, rings, necklaces? If she wore rings and her hand was pressed against her neck during the night it might make a mark.
posted by Constant Reader at 12:56 PM on August 14, 2008

How sharp are her nails? I'm wondering if she did this scratching an itch while half-asleep. Also, does she sleep with her hands under her head/face?
posted by ryanshepard at 1:00 PM on August 14, 2008

I dunno, that looks like it's a long way from earrings, but...an errant necklace or ring might be the culprit?
posted by Richat at 1:07 PM on August 14, 2008

The way the lines radiate outward made me think of a burn caused by some sort of spark - a lighter or something?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:18 PM on August 14, 2008

I vote for her scratching it in her sleep.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:22 PM on August 14, 2008

Um I don't know how she sleeps (I imagine she removes her jewellery, but hand under face... no idea). The outward beams seem kind of odd for a fingernail scratch injury tho.

And while an errant piece of jewellery might explain the shape, it certainly doesn't explain the nature of this mark. It's not just a "pressure mark" that would fade within hours. It's a proper burn / scratch / abrasion that she's had for almost two days.

Shingles doesn't seem to fit the pattern either.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:58 PM on August 14, 2008

Does she have any creepy roommates?
posted by Constant Reader at 2:03 PM on August 14, 2008

Are you sure the water bottle doesn't have ridges in that shape? My childhood water bottle could leave patterns.
posted by PatoPata at 2:20 PM on August 14, 2008

I bet she slept on a piece of jewelry that had nickel in it. The same thing happens to me, and looks just like that. If so, it's a rash and will go away in a day or two.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:22 PM on August 14, 2008

Did she use a curling iron or straightener the night before? That pattern might occur if it skittered across her skin while she was turning it. (Not rolling it, but moving in an arc.) I occasionally will notice a mysterious curling iron related burn that I had no recollection of feeling when it happened.
posted by platinum at 2:34 PM on August 14, 2008

The nickel thing is an interesting lead. Will quizz her about that tomorrow.

No straighteners or some such things.

(and no, no creepy roommates. and I've not seen her hot water bottle but I imagine if it had ridges like that she would've made the connection since she'd considered it as a possible culprit)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:50 PM on August 14, 2008

Definitely looks like a burn to me. If you look closely, the vertical mark is different from the rest, and there's a nearly invisible mark at about the 6 o clock position. I don't know if that helps or not.

If it's a burn, it would have to be something fairly hot, in the 400 degree F range. (I know this because I just burnt myself on the oven, and the injury has the same coloring/characteristics...)

Maybe even a chemical burn of some kind?
posted by gjc at 7:34 PM on August 14, 2008

Could it have been made from pulling her car's seat belt shoulder-strap across her neck area? Hot metal on the shoulder-strap, maybe? Also, can she rule out alien abduction?;)
posted by Acacia at 8:26 PM on August 14, 2008

What about the plug on her hot water bottle? I've seen a burn start off as a general red area then have a pattern emerge as the lesser burnt parts heal first (the more burnt parts can take a lot longer to heal). In my case it was ironing myself instead of my clothes but a hot water bottle plug may have fins or a weird shape that makes that pattern. It wouldn't be as noticeable as general hot water bottle indents as the plug is usually protected by the rubber collar.

Also skin burns at about 55 degrees C (130ish F) so the comment above about needing to be 400 degF is way off (sure 400 will burn, but so will 130). Normal household hot water should be kept at 50 degC or below but most places have it more like 60 degC, so a hot water bottle can definitely cause a minor burn.

Actually, if the hot water bottle plug has exposed metal (maybe the plastic has worn off) then that will probably contain nickel. Which would be enough to trigger an allergy assuming she has one (I have nickel allergies too and they look similar to burns). The allergy thing, if possible, makes more sense than a burn because it won't hurt at the time and can take quite a while to develop whereas a burn will sting and be noticed.
posted by shelleycat at 10:29 PM on August 14, 2008

shellycat- I just meant that it would have to be that hot to cause that sort of mark. I was imagining that a less hot thing would cause a more diffuse mark. But good call on the lesser burnt areas healing quicker.
posted by gjc at 7:27 AM on August 15, 2008

Collagen starts to melt at around fifty degrees, so even a cooler surface can cause that sort of mark as long as it's directed to a specific area by something. Which is why I wondered about the plug, if it had metal or the wrong kind of plastic in it that could heat up from the water and cause a specific burn rather than just a general red area like you'd see from a water splash. I've burnt myself on hot water taps and received a red mark similar to the photo (we can't access the heat control for the water in this house and it's too hot), and that was probably only about 65 degrees C. I know several people who use boiling water in their hotties and that will most definitely cause a burn like in the photo, again as long as there's something solid involved to press on and give the clean edges.

I'm clumsy, I burn myself a lot. The temperatures really don't have to be that high.
posted by shelleycat at 6:11 PM on August 15, 2008

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