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Baby's health

14th Mar 2023

HSE urges public to stop kissing babies amid spread of herpes

Kat O'Connor

baby name

The HSE has issued a warning to the public amid the spread of the herpes simplex virus.

People have been warned not to kiss babies if they have a cold sore.

The HSE stated;

“Cold sores are tiny, fluid-filled blisters on the face that are caused by the herpes simplex virus. They are spread by direct skin-to-skin contact and are highly infectious. Do not kiss babies if you have a cold sore.”

“Cold sores can be fatal to newborn babies and dangerous for older babies or children.”

Kissing a baby when you have a cold sore can lead to neonatal herpes.

HSE herpes

“In rare situations, cold sores can cause complications for older babies and children. The most serious of these is encephalitis when the virus causes an inflammation of the brain.”

What is neonatal herpes?

Neonatal herpes is a herpes infection in newborns. It can be extremely serious for young babies. It can also be fatal in some cases because a baby’s immune system is not developed enough.

They’re at the highest risk of complications when they’re under four weeks old.

Parents should call 112 or 999 if their child develops the following symptoms:

  • If your child is unresponsive
  • If they’re difficult to wake
  • Trouble breathing/breathing fast/making grunting noises
  • If their tongue, lips or skin is blue
  • If they’re having a seizure (fit or convulsion)

You should also contact your GP if your child has the below symptoms:

  • Is not feeding
  • Is irritable
  • If they have a high temperature (over 38 degrees Celsius)
  • If they have a rash, blisters, or sores on their skin, eyes, or inside their mouth

Most doctors will prescribe antiviral medication if your child has neonatal herpes.

neonatal herpes

The HSE explained how neonatal herpes can become severe for infants.

“For some babies with neonatal herpes, the virus only affects their skin, eyes, or mouth. In this situation, most babies make a full recovery after treatment with antiviral medication.

“If the virus spreads to a baby’s organs, the infection is very dangerous. Around 1 in 3 babies die if this happens.”

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