Babies are adorable beings. This makes them be on the receiving end of hugs and kisses from friends, family and even strangers at times. We bet you might not have thought twice before letting someone kiss your baby. And we get it. You cannot say no to a guest who has come to see your bambino. But what if we tell you that it can be life-threatening to your newborn?
Anyone from toddlers, children, and adults can get cold sores. Many children get it by the time they turn 5, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But if a newborn who is less than 6 months old gets infected by the cold sore virus, it can lead to something serious. And since cold sores are contagious, one has to be extra careful when coming in contact with a baby(1).
Cold Sores: How To Identify It?
They are small blisters that appear near the lips. It can appear on or around it, mostly at the edges. These blisters will pop after forming into a crust. However, they are not contagious once they turn scabby and dry. Cold sores usually disappear on their own within a few weeks(2).
If a person with cold sore kisses a baby and let them touch the sore, it can have deadly consequences. Babies can easily get infected with the virus by coming in contact with a person who has it. It can also be spread by sharing towels, utensils or cups.
Before the blisters begin to appear, one may experience burning, tingling or itching. Though it is more contagious once you see the blisters, it can spread even before that. The virus that causes cold sores are herpes simplex virus 1, also called as HSV-1.
Are Babies At Risk Of Cold Sores?
Because babies have mother’s antibodies in them, the risk of getting a cold sore is less. But since the immune system of an infant who is below the age of 6 months is yet to completely develop, the cold sore virus can have severe effects on them if they do get infected (3).
How Is It Transmitted?
A pregnant woman with genital herpes can transmit it to the baby through fluids in the birth canal or during vaginal delivery. The baby can get cold sores from the womb even if the mother is not showing any symptoms. It can also be transmitted through the placenta (4).
Another way of transmission is through contact after birth. Contact through a kiss, touch or a shared cup can all lead to catching the virus. It can also be transmitted to the baby through the mother’s breast milk. It is important to note that people can have cold sores and not be aware of it if there are no visible symptoms.
Symptoms In Newborns
As discussed earlier, babies can develop more serious complications than older kids or adults. The blisters which are usually found on the lips and around the mouth can spread to other areas in babies. They may also develop a fever or sore throat and can also lead to poor feeding (5). It poses the greatest risk to infants who are just a few weeks old.
More severe symptoms of herpes infection include the following:
- A high fever
How Are Cold Sores Treated?
If you have contracted the herpes simplex virus, it will forever be in your system. And since there is no cure for it, the best way is to treat it as soon as they arise. The treatments include using cold compresses and taking pain relievers and antiviral medications to speed up the healing process (6).
If you are pregnant and have the virus in your system, talk to your doctor about it. They may prescribe medications to avoid having any outbreaks during pregnancy.
Moms and caregivers with cold sores cannot isolate themselves from the baby. But following basic rules such as not letting the baby touch the sore, washing your hands thoroughly before touching the baby, and keeping separate utensils and towels for both you and your baby can prevent its spread. However, if you suspect that your baby has cold sores, take him/her to the doctor right away.