From stork bites to wine stains, newborns and infants can have a wide variety of marks and spots on their bodies. Depending on their size, shape, color and location, these normal infant skin conditions can be alarming. Strawberry hemangioma is one such mark, and it can be frightening and frustrating to see it growing on your baby. What is it and is it dangerous? Here’s what you need to know about strawberry hemangiomas, including how they grow, what to look for, and how to treat them.
What it is
Strawberry hemangioma is also known as infantile hemangioma, strawberry spot, or strawberry nevus.
It is a birthmark and a benign or non-cancerous tumor that is usually not dangerous or worrisome. It is caused by a bunch of small blood vessels (capillaries) that collect in the top layer of the skin while the baby is developing in the womb.
Then, after the baby is born, the cluster grows.
Infantile hemangiomas are red or pink patches on an infant’s skin that can be flat or elevated. They are called strawberry marks because they sometimes look like strawberries. These growths can be small or large. They are usually found on the head and neck, but can also be found on the trunk and extremities or anywhere else on the infant’s body.
When it appears and disappears
Your baby may be born with a strawberry hemangioma, but it is more likely to appear in the first few weeks of life. It usually appears in the first month as a tiny marker that looks like a small contusion or pale spot on the skin. During the first three to six months, an infantile hemangioma will grow rapidly, becoming redder as it grows.
After six months, the growth usually slows down, but can continue until the infant is nine to twelve months old. Then, between one year and 18 months, the hemangioma may begin to flatten, shrink, and disappear. Although this may take longer, many children leave by the time they start school at age five. And, almost all leave by the time the child is ten years old.
Hemangiomas are common in infancy. Studies show that they affect about 4 to 5 percent of infants, as many as 1 in 20. Experts don’t know why some babies get infantile hemangiomas, but researchers have found that hemangiomas are more likely to appear in infants:
Caucasian (white) children
Low birth weight
In these cases they are also more likely to be :
Advanced maternal age
Use of pregnancy-assisting drugs
Researchers are also studying what does not cause hemangiomas. There is no evidence yet that they are caused by any food, activity or environmental exposure during pregnancy.
Your doctor may notice a hemangioma at your baby’s well-baby exam, but you are more likely to notice something on your baby’s skin first. If you see something, be sure to point it out to your doctor so that he or she can monitor its growth and then subsidence. Pediatricians can often follow up on hemangiomas, but you can also see a pediatric dermatologist.
The doctor may be able to give you a diagnosis just by examining the baby and the spot. However, he may schedule other tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI.
A strawberry-shaped hemangioma may appear and grow like a tumor, but it is not cancer and does not spread like cancer does. Although there is usually no need to worry and complications are rare, there are some things you can watch out for. Inform your doctor if:
It grows very, very fast.
It can interfere with your baby’s breathing.
It is over the baby’s eyes, blocking her vision.
It bleeds regularly.
It looks like it is infected.
The baby has many hemangiomas.
If the hemangioma is only a cosmetic problem and not a medical one, you can usually let it go away naturally. However, your doctor will tell you the basis of treatment is :
Where the hemangioma is on your baby
How fast it is growing
How big it is
How likely it is to cause complications
How many there are
The age of your child
How you feel about markers and treatment plans
Of course, you may not have treatment options. This is necessary if the hemangioma is interfering with your baby’s health or development and if the size and location of the hemangioma can cause problems with:
Breathing. Growths in the throat or near the larynx can block the airway and make it difficult to breathe.
Vision. Most of the time, a strawberry hemangioma near the eye is not dangerous and will not affect your baby’s vision or eye development. However, if this occurs, your doctor will recommend treatment.
Eating or talking. A large hemangioma on an infant’s mouth may cause eating or speech problems as the child learns to talk.
Exclusion. Angiomas in the diaper area can affect the infant’s ability to move his bowels or urinate freely.
Treatment of strawberry hemangioma includes:
Oral medications, such as benzoyl or corticosteroids
Liquid nitrogen freezing (cryotherapy)
If a hemangioma is left to go away on its own, it can disappear completely without leaving any scars or marks. However, some hemangiomas do not disappear completely, and others may leave discolored skin, scars, or loose skin.
Some leftover scars may require additional treatment or surgery to repair. Scars or residual marks may also remain after medication, injections, laser treatment, or surgery. However, a skilled doctor and the right treatment can help keep scars to a minimum.
Generally speaking, strawberry hemangioma is not a cause for concern. However, if you notice any marks or growths on your baby, it is always wise to have your doctor check them out. Complications are very rare, but they can occur. Problems that can arise from strawberry hemangioma are:
Bleeding: Sometimes, strawberry hemangiomas can be bumped, scratched or injured causing bleeding.
Open ulcers: Open ulcers are called ulcers. Ulcers may form as a result of friction or injury. Ulcers can cause other complications such as pain, bleeding, infection and scarring.
Infection: Bacteria can enter the body through openings in the skin.
Pain: Hemangiomas are not painful for your child. However, they can become painful if they get large and interfere with bodily functions, if the skin breaks down, or if they become infected.
Underlying conditions: If there are many hemangiomas, your doctor will do further tests to check for health problems.
Scarring: Hemangiomas can leave scars. Scars are more likely to form if there are ulcers, injuries, bleeding, or infections. Sometimes treatment can also cause scars to form.
How to react when people stare at you
One of the most difficult things you may have to deal with when your child has a visible birthmark on his or her face, ears, neck, head or arms is the reaction of other people. Unfortunately, some people will stare, point it out, or ask questions without taking a moment to think about it first.
It’s natural to want to protect your child, so it can be difficult to deal with other people’s subconscious reactions to your child’s appearance. But, you can get through it. Here are some ways to deal with it.
Try to understand
Some people, especially children, are just curious and simply don’t want to come across as rude or judgmental. They may not even realize that they’ve been watching a little too long and can only try to understand what they’re seeing. If you think about it, you probably did too.
Smile and wave at them
No matter who is staring at you, maintain eye contact and a smile. They may feel embarrassed and quickly look away, or they may smile back at you and your child.
It’s okay to say hello or interact with those who are staring at you. You can ask them if they have any questions for you and use the opportunity to let them know how your child is doing. This may even save another family from the dreaded stare.
Some people are just plain rude, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Take a deep breath, walk away, and forget about them.
Don’t let it get to you
Don’t let people stop you from going out with your kids and enjoying the time you have together. It’s really their problem, not yours.
Cherish your children
Your children are already cute and beautiful. There is nothing anyone can say or do to change what your child means to you. Get out there, take pictures, do all the things you would normally do.
Friends and family who love you and your child are a great source of help to get you through this. Other moms who have been through this will help too, especially in the beginning.
Hang in there.
It can be really tough at times. But remember, a hemangioma doesn’t last forever. It will eventually go away.
Some parents want to treat the mark, even if it doesn’t cause health problems. A strawberry hemangioma on your baby’s face can be frustrating because it changes your baby’s appearance. If it is disfiguring, it can cause emotional distress to your child.
When the hemangioma is on the body, you can hide it behind your clothes. However, when it is on the face, it is easily seen. As your child grows and begins to attend school and other activities, a different appearance can lead to bullying or difficulty making friends. When considering treatment, it is important to consider how the hemangioma may affect your child’s self-esteem and future experiences.
A quote from Verywell
Strawberry hemangioma may scare you when it first starts to grow. And, dealing with the changes in your baby’s appearance and other people’s reactions to it can be difficult. But, thankfully, they are almost always harmless and painless, and rarely cause complications. It may feel like an eternity, but hemangiomas usually start shrinking about a year after most have gone away on their own. So, look into your support system, see your child’s doctor, ask questions, get up-to-date information, and develop a personalized plan for your child’s needs.