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Ask Dr. Sears: Baby Birthmarks

Q. My newborn has a pink rash behind her neck and a red spot on her leg. What are they?

A. They sound like birthmarks, which are usually harmless. Many newborns enter the world with a multicolored variety of skin spots and specks. Some disappear within the first few years, while others can last a lifetime.

Your baby's neck rash is the most common birthmark. Dubbed "stork bites" or "salmon patches" (the medical term is "blood vessel nevus" or "macular stain"), these smooth, reddish-pink marks are usually found on the nape of the neck, on the eyelids, or in the middle of the forehead. They stem from excess blood vessels that show through your newborn's thin skin. As these little patches shrink and a baby's skin thickens during the first year, the marks may fade.

The red blemish on your child's leg is most likely another common birthmark called a strawberry hemangioma because it often starts as a small dot and gradually becomes the size of a strawberry during the first year. These soft, raised growths are also caused by an overabundance of surface blood vessels.

It's usually best to leave strawberries alone, as most expand rapidly during infancy, peak in size, and then disappear by a child's fifth birthday, when the blood vessels start to shrink. However, in rare instances when they are near the eyes or in the mouth, potentially obstructing a child's eyesight or breathing, they can be shrunk with the use of steroids or removed with laser treatment or surgery.