Most of the time, child hemangiomas are nothing to worry about.

You’ve likely seen them before on infants: bright, red or purple birthmarks that look a little lumpy like a strawberry. These are called hemangiomas, common growths that happen when blood cells don’t form properly—or get tangled. This sounds scarier than it usually is.  

Hemangiomas are harmless most of the time, but naturally many parents worry. Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, Emily Sampino, MD, answers the most common questions parents have about child hemangiomas. 

What causes hemangiomas in children?

Medical professionals don’t know the exact cause of hemangiomas, but research shows they may be related to environmental changes in pregnancy and could have a tie-in with genetics and family history. You did not, rest assured, cause your child's hemangioma! About 2-3% of babies are born with hemangiomas and they usually develop in the first few weeks of life and can appear anywhere on the body. They are more common in females, low-birth-weight infants, multiples like twins or triplets, and preemies.

Will my child’s hemangioma disappear?

First, they’ll grow during your baby’s first year. Then, after 12 months, a hemangioma will shrink slowly over time. By age 7, a hemangioma should be barely noticeable.  

Would you like to schedule an appointment with the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders?

Does my child’s hemangioma need treatment?

Probably not. Most of the time, it’s ok to “watch and wait” as the hemangioma will gradually fade over time. No treatment is needed for these types of hemangiomas—just a quick look at your child’s pediatric well visits will do the trick. But, there are some exceptions. Read on…

quote icon

You did not, rest assured, cause your child's hemangioma! 

Emily Vistica-Sampino, MD,
Connecticut Children's Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist

When should I worry about my child’s hemangioma?

With infantile hemangiomas, there are a few things to watch out for. Ask yourself:

  • Is it near the eye, possibly affecting vision? This needs urgent referral and treatment.
  • Is it in an area that can cause disfigurement, like on the face or on breast tissue? It may be worth discussing treatment options.
  • Is the lesion large (greater than 2 cm) or spanning a large region?
  • Does the hemangioma form a specific pattern in a beard distribution or on the low back? This may require additional evaluation and treatment.
  • Does your baby have more than 5 hemangiomas? They may need to be examined for any lesions on their liver.
  • Does your baby cause friction on the hemangioma when they move? 
  • Does the hemangioma look like it might be bleeding?  If so, it may need treatment to prevent complications from ulceration, including pain and infection.
  • Does your baby’s hemangioma appear as a larger bump with bluish discoloration? Deeper hemangiomas may require additional evaluation. 

Let your pediatrician know if any of the above are happening because they might refer you to a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. If you have any concerns at all about your baby’s hemangioma, you can always reach out. Your hematologist/oncologist might recommend:

  • Additional testing
  • A watch-and-wait plan, or 
  • Treatment-- the earlier, the better. 

>Related: For hemangiomas that need extra attention, request an appointment with Connecticut Children's hemangioma program.

What’s the treatment for more serious hemangiomas?

Every child is different! If the lesion is very small, a topical beta blocker (group of medicines that help treat cardiovascular diseases and other conditions) may be effective. For most hemangiomas needing treatment, an oral beta blocker taken during the first year of life is both safe and effective. Dermatologists can also offer laser therapy for persistent lesions. 

Infantile hemangiomas are common and usually not serious, but it’s important to stay informed. Understanding the causes, types, and available treatment can help you make informed decisions about your child's health and well-being.