The holidays are in full swing. Families and friends are gathering to create memories with new and old additions to the family. This is usually a time when the whole gang will get to meet the new babies in the family. As a new parent or even an experienced parent, you may get a little anxious about all of the extra attention your baby will receive. Your feelings are valid and normal. Recently, there has been a lot of news floating around social media about babies and toddlers contracting the herpes virus. As a nurse practitioner and a mama of 3, I want to give you some facts about the herpes virus so you can prepare your “don’t kiss my baby” speech with confidence.
What is the herpes virus?
Herpes is an infection caused by a virus. The herpes simplex-1 virus most often causes cold sores and fever blisters. This infection is very common. The Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, estimates that 1 in 6 people aged 14-49 has herpes. Herpes simplex-1 is commonly found in the mouth while herpes simplex-2 is normally in the genital area but the regions can be reversed.
How is it spread?
The herpes virus is quite contagious. It is spread by direct contact with lesions on the mouth. For example, if someone has a blister on his lip and kisses your baby, your baby can get the herpes infection. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a person can also get the herpes virus by coming in contact with the saliva of an infected person even if she doesn’t have a blister present. For example, if an infected friend does not have a blister but kisses your baby’s fingers or face and leaves a little saliva behind (yuck!) your baby can get the herpes infection.
Why is the virus so bad for babies?
Babies have fragile immune systems. As with other viruses – RSV, influenza, etc. – babies take a long time to recover because viruses simply have to run their courses. There are no cures for viruses. What makes the herpes simplex-1 virus so scary is that it affects a baby’s nervous system. Babies don’t simply get a couple of blisters, they can experience serious complications that include a fever, respiratory distress, fatigue, jaundice, seizures, brain swelling and possibly death. I have heard countless stories about babies being hospitalized for being exposed to the herpes virus.
Remember no one is saying Auntie can’t snuggle with her niece or that your BFF can’t love on her new godchild. However, we are saying that you can’t kiss them on the face or hands. Parents, I want to empower you. Never feel uncomfortable speaking up for your voiceless newborn or infant. Just think about it, if they could talk, they would probably say “Um please don’t kiss me. I don’t know where your mouth has been.”
About Nikki Hunter Greenaway
Nikki Hunter Greenaway is the proud mother to Joseph, Naomi and Nylah. She is married to her best friend of 13 years, Jason. A native of Dallas, Nikki has a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Northwestern University Chicago, a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Loyola University Chicago and a Master’s in Nursing from LSU. In addition to being a mom and wife, she is the proud owner of Nurse Nikki LLC. She provides postpartum home visits to new moms and their babies during the first week, 2 weeks and 2 months after delivery. She also teaches private and public CPR classes to families, schools and businesses. She is currently completing her studies to become a certified lactation consultant. If you are interested in services visit her website.