Baby birthmarks: Port-wine stain/haemangioma

The red, flat patches known as haemangiomas, or strawberry marks, are the most common growths on babies' skin. In the UK about one in every 10 babies has a haemangioma. They are more common in girls, in premature babies, low birth weight babies and multiple births, such as twins, triplets and quadruplets. Most haemangiomas – which can develop anywhere on the body – show up within the first two to four weeks of life, though some are present at birth.

What are haemangiomas?

Haemangiomas start out as flat red patches and, with time, may enlarge and thicken, potentially continuing to grow for 10 months to a year. They then enter a phase of inactivity, which is soon followed by the last phase, when they begin to shrink on their own. About half of all haemangiomas will be gone by the time a child is five years old, and 90 to 95 per cent will be gone by the time they are between 8 and 10.

Treatment is usually unnecessary unless the haemangioma bleeds frequently or is somewhere where it could interfere with general bodily functions – such as near an eye or on the mouth. If your baby has a haemangioma that is a problem for any reason, your GP can discuss possible treatments with you.  

If the haemangioma starts to bleed and doesn’t stop after 5 minutes, go to your local walk in NHS clinic.

Haemangiomas need protection from the sun because it can make them swell up for a while and look redder. Use a high factor sun cream on all areas of exposed skin and use a hat to protect the child’s face and/or an umbrella over the buggy or pushchair.

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