The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued this recommendation as part of new guidelines on how to deal with common baby birthmarks, officially called infantile hemangiomas. Until now, healthcare providers have taken a "wait and see" approach to these birthmarks because they're usually harmless and eventually go away by themselves.
But sometimes infantile hemangiomas cause permanent scarring and medical problems. To prevent this, the AAP now says it's best to identify the marks early and, if necessary, start treating them when a baby is about 1 month old.
About 1 in 20 babies develop infantile hemangiomas, which are caused by clusters of extra blood vessels inside the body or on the skin. This type of birthmark are more common with girls, twins, and preemies. Some look like bumpy red "strawberry" marks, while others look more like swollen bruises. They typically start to appear around 4 weeks of age, and grow especially fast when a baby is between 5 and 7 weeks old. Most of the time they'll stop growing when the infant is 5 months old, and will fade away by the time a child reaches elementary school.
But sometimes birthmarks cause problems. Here are common issues your pediatrician will want to watch out for if your baby develops a hemangioma:
- Interference with body functions: If the birthmark is near your baby's eyes, ears, or mouth it could lead to problems with her eyesight, hearing, or ability to breathe. Occasionally, the birthmarks grow inside the body and can obstruct other physical functions
- Infections: Some birthmarks break down and become open sores, which can lead to bleeding, infection, and scarring.
- Permanent disfigurement: The birthmark could make it difficult for a child's facial features to develop properly, or leave behind permanent discoloration or other changes to the skin.
The good news is these problems are normally easy to prevent if a hemangioma is identified and treated early. Treatments your child's pediatrician might prescribe include a beta blocker medication called propranolol, oral steroids, topical creams or ointments, and steroid injections. In some cases, doctors might recommend surgery or laser treatment.
For more information about infantile hemangiomas and other types of birthmarks check out BabyCenter's birthmarks resource page, as well as the AAP's article on the topic.
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