If for any reason, you unintentionally kissed your baby with a cold sore, the first thing that you need to do is to try and eliminate traces of the virus immediately. Next, give them a quick bath focusing on the part where you kissed your baby; soap and water can eliminate the virus. After that, call your pediatrician and advise what happened to get some professional advice on what to do if symptoms start to show up, and then you wait. Finally, monitor your baby closely for early symptoms such as fever, blisters, and lost appetite.
First thing’s first, do not kiss your baby if you have a cold sore or any viral infection. It’s a highly contagious infection that typically spreads through close contact. For a newborn, it’s all the more important to remember that.
If you have a newborn baby, they might still have their mother’s immune system (antibodies) in their blood. They’re also still adjusting to the outside world (a.k.a. outside your womb), so their immunity is still in the developing stages and isn’t yet fully developed to fight off the virus.
Everything from the temperature down to the air is new to them. Basically, the younger the baby, the more vulnerable they are to the harmful effects of infection.
What happens if a baby gets cold sore?
Cold sores pose the highest risk to infants during the first weeks of their lives. The herpes virus can cause severe problems at this stage and may even be fatal if it spreads to the organs, including the eyes, brain, or lungs.
It’s pretty visible when your baby gets infected as they might develop a rash around their mouth or get blisters. It might even spread to the surrounding area, including the chin or cheeks. You might even notice your baby having a sore throat.
In babies and kids, cold sores are usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Adults also mostly get cold sores from HSV-1 infection but can sometimes get them from another herpes virus, HSV-2.
- High fever – For babies and children, the average body temperature ranges from 97.9°F (36.6°C) to 99°F (37.2°C); it could change depending on their activity. In general, a reading that is 2°F (1.1°C) above your average temperature is usually a sign of a fever. Call your pediatrician or go to the nearest hospital or clinic to have your baby checked.
- Lost appetite – Another sign that your baby is feeling something unusual is eating less than what they usually do, or worse, don’t want to eat at all. We don’t want our babies missing the nutrition that their growing body needs.
- Less energy – This one particularly needs close observation, if your baby is active most of the time, it could be easy to determine, but if they behave, you might want to monitor how often and how long they sleep.
- Catching breath – They are not doing much but are getting out of breath or is breathing faster than usual. It usually comes with having less energy. Your baby might even get tired quickly and need to catch their breath.
What is a cold sore?
Cold sores are a common viral infection also known as fever blisters and oral herpes.
They are tiny, fluid-filled blisters on and around the lips usually caused by the herpes simplex virus in babies. You can see these blisters grouped in patches, and after they break, scab forms that can last several days.
It usually heals in two to three weeks without leaving a scar. There’s no cure, but treatment (home remedies) can help manage outbreaks. Prescribed antiviral pills or creams can help sores heal more quickly, and they may reduce the length and severity of future outbreaks.
Causes and cure of cold sore
Cold sores usually spread through saliva (yes, spit) and skin-to-skin contact. So this means that kissing and hugging might be the reason if your baby catches the virus.
It can also be passed by touching something that has the virus on it. It’s easiest to pass on the virus when you have a cold sore, but you can sometimes still be contagious even if you don’t show any symptoms.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many children will start to get cold sores by age 5. Newborns rarely get infected, but when a baby less than six months old contracts this virus, it can have severe effects.
Currently, there is no cure, but the good news is that they go away on their own. Some may take a little longer than others to heal. Sores are typically not treated because the medications currently available only slightly speed up healing time.
What you can do is to protect your little one against the spread, help relieve the child’s discomfort during a flare-up and painful blisters, and try to avoid possible triggers.
Preventing your baby from getting cold sores
It’s also important to know what steps you need to take and what things you can do to prevent your infant from getting infected. As discussed earlier, your baby’s immunity is still developing till they turn six months old.
It’s vital to remember some of the things:
- Don’t get close to your baby, including cuddles and kisses.
- Avoid touching them directly on their mouth or face.
- Don’t let your baby touch any of your utensils.
- Don’t put their toes or hands anywhere near your mouth.
- If you’re coming in contact with your baby, wash your hands before and after getting in touch with them.
- To breastfeed your baby with herpes sores, it’s better to give them formulated milk until you’ve recovered.
What to do if your baby gets a cold sore
As parents, we try to do everything in our power to keep our babies healthy and happy; unfortunately, it’s almost impossible most of the time.
Once a child is infected with the cold sore virus, it is more likely to return when their immune system runs down, or the skin becomes irritated from other causes.
We can help them stop spreading the herpes infection and ease the discomfort when it flares up, and once it’s fully healed, help them avoid possible triggers.
Stop the cold sores from spreading
- Stop scratching – I know that this could almost be impossible for a baby or even toddler; heck, it’s hard even for adults to do this. Try to prevent your baby from scratching to prevent the spread of the herpes infection to other parts of the body. Such as fingers and eyes and other children who touch toys and other objects they play with. Wash hands and clean toys regularly.
- Stop sharing – Don’t let your child share drinks or utensils, towels, toothpaste, or other items to avoid spreading the infection through saliva. Also, wash items such as towels and linens in hot water after use.
- Start isolating – If you have other kids or if your baby goes to daycare or school, it’s best for everyone to keep your baby at home while waiting for the cold sore to heal and completely dry up. Your baby should rest and regain strength, best for everyone else to avoid catching the cold sore virus.
Decrease cold sore discomfort
- Cold compress – Apply ice to the sores to help ease your child’s cold sore pain. Chilled or cold treats such as smoothies may be soothing to tender lips and help avoid dehydration since it will be challenging for your baby to eat.
- Avoid acids – Don’t give your child acidic foods during a cold sore outbreak (e.g., citrus fruits or tomato sauce). These can irritate cold sores, leading to longer healing times; we sure don’t want that.
- Pain reliever – If all your efforts failed and your baby’s sore continues to hurt so much that they can’t eat, call your pediatrician and ask for a pain reliever prescription. You should give your baby some time to sleep, uninterrupted by the discomfort of the sores.
Turn down triggers
- Skin irritation – This can bring on a cold sore outbreak, so be sure your little one uses lotion and a lip balm containing sunscreen or zinc oxide before heading outdoors. It’s also essential to always stay hydrated, with or without a cold sore.
- Health check – Make sure your baby gets enough sleep, exercise, and eats a well-balanced diet. Boost your baby’s immune system as this is a common trigger for sores in children to return.
- Lessen stress – Help your child manage stress, which can increase the chance of cold sore outbreaks. This one is tricky because your baby still can’t recognize when under stressful situations, so keep it light and easy for the little ones.
This transmission that happens through contact is a horizontal transmission where you might be infecting your kid since cold sores are contagious.
Another kind of transmission is vertical, where the mother has genital herpes, and the infant catches it through the birth canal. The mother might not even show symptoms of neonatal herpes.
The infant can get neonatal herpes through contact with fluids in the birth canal during vaginal delivery. This is the most common way and makes 90% of cases of neonatal cases.
This risk is lower if the mother has experienced genital herpes before. But the newborn is at risk of catching it more if the mother had genital herpes for the first time within the last six weeks of her pregnancy. During this time, the baby is at risk of blindness, brain damage, skin infections, and death in extreme cases.
Neonatal herpes is avoidable by taking medication during the last month of pregnancy to prevent the outbreak of vaginal sores during labor.
To sum it all up, prevention is always better than cure. If you feel sick or feel like you are a virus carrier because someone you talked to is sick, it is best not to kiss, hold, or go near the baby.
Cold sore or any other viral infection could be easily transmitted, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. A sick baby is the last thing that we want, our hearts will break each time they cry out of discomfort, and we’ll feel helpless for not making this discomfort go away.
We at 1happykiddo hope that the information above helped you in any way. Feel free to ask us or share your own story in the comment section below.