For many new parents, the appearance of a strawberry hemangioma—a bright red, vascular growth formed due to an abnormal collection of blood vessels, sometimes resembling a strawberry—may be quite distressing. Don’t freak out just yet—most experts agree these usually fade over time. But how should you deal with the unwanted attention in the meantime?
First things first: Strawberry hemangiomas aren’t usually harmful. “It generally starts developing inside the uterus,” says Dr. John Freedman, a paediatrician at the Thornhill Paediatric and Adolescent Clinic. “It starts evolving and becomes most prominent when the baby is three to five months old.” In 90 percent of cases, hemangiomas fade by age five or six and are completely gone by age 10. “Unless the hemangioma is in a spot where doctors feel it will interfere with body function, there is no treatment needed,” says Dr. Freedman.
A prominent strawberry birthmark can attract stares and questions from others, though, and parents may want to have strategies for how to deal with comments, says Dr. Shudeshna Nag, a paediatrician specializing in paediatric dermatology.
For example, “It’s a hemangioma, a type of birthmark that fades away over time.” As your child gets older, teach him or her to address questions from curious children in the same manner.
Your child’s own attitude toward it will generally reflect yours, so avoid constantly drawing attention to it or implying that you can’t wait for it to disappear. Emphasize that it’s a natural and harmless spot on the skin, and that we all have differences about us—it’s what makes us unique.
If the hemangioma is especially difficult for your little one, topical and oral treatments are available to speed up the disappearance of a hemangioma, and may be prescribed by your child’s paediatrician or a dermatologist. (Ask about treatment side effects while you’re there.)
Many children are born with different types of birthmarks, ranging from a smattering of moles to large port wine stains. Some of these marks are permanent, while others will fade as a child ages. The best message you can send is that birthmarks are a special part of us and help make us unique.
Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue.