Why You May Want to Think Twice About Letting Strangers Kiss Your Baby

kiss baby cheeks
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No one can resist the allure of chubby baby cheeks. 

So soft! So round and perfect! So kissable!

But as it turns out, allowing other people to kiss your precious baby could just turn deadly. 

Claire Henderson, a mother in Doncaster of the United Kingdom, recently posted pictures of her baby hospitalized with cold sores from the herpes virus. Unfortunately, the baby had been kissed near the lips and doctors found the herpes virus on her chin, cheeks, and lips.


As we know, cold sores are caused by the herpes virus and many people have herpes without even knowing it. There are two different types of herpes virus, the oral herpes virus (HSV-1) and the genital herpes virus (HSV-2). According to the CDC, more than half of the population carries the oral herpes virus version. Gross. And the danger for babies is that under three months old, they are unable to fight off the virus and it can turn deadly very quickly. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that herpes in babies can cause serious illness. While older children and adults, the herpes virus can simply run its course, evoke cold sores, and then be over. But herpes in babies, especially newborns, always requires hospitalization and treatment. The virus in one form (HSV-1) can be passed to the baby through kissing, like Henderson's story shares and even from the mother to the baby during birth in the HSV-2 genital herpes version of the virus.

In newborns, the virus will attack the "liver, lungs, and central nervous system as well as the skin, eyes, and mouth", says the AAP. Even with medication and proper treatment, the AAP cautions that herpes can cause "serious illness and even death." And of course, anyone who gets herpes at any time will be a carrier of the virus for life.


Henderson posted her photos because she had no idea about the danger of spreading herpes through simple kisses to a baby and wanted to warn other parents about the signs and symptoms. According to the AAP, some of the signs and symptoms of herpes in babies include:

  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Irritation of the eyelids or eyes in the first month of life
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Loss of appetite

"COLD SORES CAN BE FATAL FOR A BABY," Henderson wrote in Facebook plea to warn other parents of the dangers of cold sores for babies. "If a baby contracts this it can cause liver and brain damage and lead to death. 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. I noticed the signs early and got her to A&E, we have now been in hospital on a drip for 3 days and have got another 2 to go. She was VERY lucky, all her tests came back clear. The moral of the story is DO NOT let anyone kiss your newborns mouth, even if they don't look like they have a cold sore- 85% of the population carry the virus. And if someone had a cold sore ask them to stay away until it has gone. Everyone who I have spoken to had not heard of this before and so I felt it was important to share Brooke's story and raise awareness to stop anyone else going through what we have this week."

I know that I have family members with frequent cold sores that have been around my children, even as newborns, so this warning definitely put some fear in my heart. Luckily, Pediatrics states that infection with the herpes virus is "uncommon" for infants, but I think you can never be too safe. 

Morale of the story? Keep the baby kisses at home and if you have cold sores or see someone with cold sores, then kissing the baby is strictly off-limits. 


Herpes Simplex Virus (Cold Sores). (August, 2015).HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed online October 9, 2015: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Herpes-Simplex-Virus-Cold-Sores.aspx. 

David W. Kimberlin, MD & Jill Baley, MD. (February 2013). Guidance on Management of Asymptomatic Neonates Born to Women With Active Genital Herpes Lesions. Pediatrics. Accessed 9, October 15: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/2/e635.full.pdf. 

Key Statistics for Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV 1). Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 9, October 2015: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/bibliography/results.aspx?catid=42&name=Herpes%20Simplex%20Virus%20Type%201%20(HSV%201). 



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