How to Treat a Cold Sore in Babies

The last thing anyone wants is a sick baby, especially over the holiday. But with the influx of holiday parties, relatives from all over, and lots of family members holding and kissing on your baby, it almost seems inevitable that somewhere along the line, your baby is going to get sick. 

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One of the scariest things that can happen to babies is getting a cold sore. Cold sores can be passed on very easily to babies, from adults who may not realize they have a cold sore coming on or may mistakenly think they are “safe” and can't pass a cold sore onto a child. Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus-1. (Yes, it can be the same as “that” herpes. Most cases are not contracted sexually, although it can happen.) 

Many of us think of cold sores as relatively harmless. And for adults, they are. But as one case this summer showed, cold sores can be very dangerous to babies. In a tragic case, an 18-day-old baby girl got a cold sore from a family member kissing her. Sadly, the baby ended up passing away as a result. The story is even more tragic because the baby got sick during preparations for her parents' wedding. She actually ended up going unconscious during the ceremony and a spinal tap revealed that the virus had spread throughout her entire body. A virus that simply leads to a cold sore in adults led to nearly every organ in her little body shutting down. Her parents made the difficult decision to disconnect her from life support once the doctors had let them know there was nothing else that could be done for her. 

Today, her parents are crusading against kissing babies. They are urging parents to do everything they can to protect their babies, especially in the first month of life when they are most susceptible. 

cold sore
Image via Unsplash/ Dakota Corbin

The best way to prevent cold sores in babies, of course, is to ensure that you make it clear that when it comes to your baby, there is a firm “No Kissing” rule in place. Honestly, even if an adult doesn't have a cold sore, but is a person who gets cold sores frequently, the virus may be passed on.

But what do you do if someone who has a cold sore or gets cold sores frequently does kiss your brand-new baby? What should you look out for? And do babies even get cold sores?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most of the time, children do not get cold sores like adults do until around the age of five. They can, however, get infected with the herpes virus. The symptoms of the virus generally occur about 2-12 days after exposure to the virus. You should look out for: 

  • Low-grade fever
  • Small skin blisters 
  • Blisters around the mouth or inside the mouth

If you notice any symptoms that could indicate that your baby has been exposed to herpes, you should call your child's pediatrician right away, as the virus can be very dangerous. If you do notice that your infant has a cold sore, aside from immediately contacting your child's pediatrician and monitoring for any further symptoms, you can: 

Make sure your child stays away from other children, including siblings. No kissing, sharing cups, and keep the pacifier away from curious little hands!

  • There is no way to treat a cold sore, but you can help keep your child comfortable. 
  • Use a simple salve, like Vaseline, to try to keep the blister from cracking or bleeding. 
  • You can apply ice or a warm washcloth to the cold sore to try to decrease pain and swelling. 
  • If your child is over six months old, a pain reliever may be appropriate. 

Watch out for the following symptoms that could indicate the virus has spread in your child's body and could be very dangerous: 

  • A rash across the whole body
  • Blisters around the eyes
  • A raising fever
  • The cold sores look infected, with redness or swelling

Bottom line? If your baby gets a cold sore, it could be very dangerous. Try to protect your baby from getting a cold sore by avoiding contact with friends and family members who have cold sores and enforcing a “no kissing” babies rule. And if your child is exposed, monitor them for any worsening symptoms. 

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How to Treat a Cold Sore in Babies

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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