“Mom Posts Shocking Photos Warning About the Dangers of Kissing Newborns” originally appeared on Yahoo Parenting and was reprinted with permission.
Newborns are so adorable, it can be next to impossible to resist the urge to kiss them. But think twice before you pucker up.
After a kiss from an adult left her infant daughter hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening infection, one new mom is spreading the word via Facebook about how dangerous an innocent peck can be to a baby.
“Please share this with every new mum and pregnant woman you know … cold sores can be fatal for a baby,” wrote Claire Henderson, a U.K. mother whose 3-month-old contacted oral herpes. Brooke (seen above) presumably contracted the virus after a kiss from a well-meaning friend or family member.
Henderson wrote that she noticed signs that something wasn’t right with her daughter, so she took Brooke to the hospital. There, doctors diagnosed oral herpes and treated Brooke with IV meds before any serious health ramifications could set in.
“I know this sounds like I am scaremongering but if my friend had not told me about this my baby girl could have been very seriously ill,” wrote Henderson on Sept. 16.
Henderson’s mission to alert parents is an important one. Oral herpes is caused by the HSV-1 virus, which is spread through the saliva of a person who carries the virus.
It’s common to contract oral herpes in childhood, as kids often swap spit via cups, straws, and lip balm. It’s very contagious; In fact, 90 percent of people worldwide test positive for antibodies to HSV, according to the Mayo Clinic, meaning they contracted it at some point in life, whether they know it or not.
While an initial outbreak of HSV-1 can cause one or more painful lip sores (and even fever, chills, and muscle aches) that take at least a week to heal, for most kids and adults, cold sores are usually little more than an unsightly annoyance.
Not so for infants. “Babies under 2 months old have weaker immune systems and can’t fight the virus,” Julie G. Capiola, a pediatrician at NYU Langone Medical Center and staff doctor at Premier Pediatrics in New York City, tells Yahoo Parenting.
“In newborns, the infection can become very serious and lead to encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that requires antiviral and antibacterial medication,” says Capiola.
Henderson’s post, along with the startling photos of Brooke, her lips marked by cold sores, has struck a cord. It’s racked up more than 34,000 shares, as well as comments by horrified parents, some swearing that they won’t let anyone kiss their babies again.
Capiola agrees that this is the best protection. “Limit the number of people who visit and handle your baby for the first few months, and remind them not to kiss the baby’s face, especially on the lips,” she warns, since even kissing a baby on the cheek can spread the virus.
For parents or other adults who have a history of cold sores, be especially mindful of outbreak warning signs, such as tingling or itching. In this pre-visible sore stage, the virus is most transmissible, says Capiola.
But even without symptoms, a person who carries HSV-1— which the vast majority of adults do — can still spread it. Which is why it’s smart to institute a no-kissing policy for your infant, no exceptions.
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