Why You Shouldn't Let 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 actually compromise your little one's health.

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:

  • Oral herpes virus (HSV-1)
  • Genital herpes virus (HSV-2)

According to the CDC, more than half of the population carries the oral herpes virus version. But babies under three months old are unable to fight off the virus and it can turn deadly very quickly.

Herpes and Babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that herpes in babies can cause serious illness. For 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 HSV-1 form, can be passed to a baby through kissing, like in Henderson's story, or from mother to baby during birth—in the HSV-2 genital herpes form. In newborns, the virus can attack the liver, lungs, central nervous system, skin, eyes, and mouth.

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; she 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:

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

In a Facebook plea to warn other parents of the dangers of herpes to babies, Henderson wrote:

Cold sores can be fatal for a baby. 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 the hospital on a drip for three days and have got another two to go. She was very lucky, all her tests came back clear. The moral of the story is do not let anyone kiss your newborn's mouth, even if they don't look like they have a cold sore—85% of the population carries the virus.

And, if someone had a cold sore, ask them to stay away until it has gone. Everyone who I have spoken to has 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.

A Word From Verywell

We all have family members with frequent cold sores, some who have been around our children and newborns. So, this warning definitely resonates.

Luckily, Pediatrics states that infection with the herpes virus is uncommon for infants. But, you can never be too safe. 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.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Xu F, Sternberg MR, Kottiri BJ, et al. Trends in herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 seroprevalence in the United States. JAMA. 2006;296(8):964-73. doi:10.1001/jama.296.8.964

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Cold Sores in Children: About the Herpes Simplex Virus.

  3. Wald A, Corey L. Persistence in the population: epidemiology, transmission. In: Arvin A, Campadelli-Fiume G, Mocarski E, et al., editors. Human Herpesviruses: Biology, Therapy, and Immunoprophylaxis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007.

  4. Kimberlin DW, Baley J. Guidance on management of asymptomatic neonates born to women with active genital herpes lesions. Pediatrics. 2013;131(2):e635-46. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-3216

Additional Reading

By Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.