Mom shares heartbreaking baby photos to warn parents of cold sore danger

Sep 24, 2015 at 1:06 p.m. ET
Image: JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

A mom has posted a couple of photos of her baby online to share a grim message — that kissing babies can actually kill them.

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Fortunately her newborn baby, a girl she named Brooke, is recovering, but Claire Henderson attributes her baby's rebounding health to the fact that she knew what to look for and got her help right away... and she's asking people to share the photos so they know too:


Henderson shares that it was frightening to learn how dangerous a simple kiss can be for an infant, but she wanted to work hard to get the word out about the dangers, because frankly, not many of us know about the serious dangers of cold sore infections in newborns. Did you know that a kiss can actually kill an infant?

According to the World Health Organization, cold sores, which are generally caused by the herpes simplex virus — type 1 (HSV-1) — are highly contagious and are spread via oral-to-oral contact, usually kissing. In older children and adults, this usually causes the painful, embarrassing sores you are likely familiar with, but in young infants, it can be fatal. It is estimated that up to 60 percent of cases of untreated neonatal herpes infections result in death.

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And the even scarier part? HSV-1 can be spread even when there are absolutely no symptoms or sores present.

There are a few things we, as parents, can keep in mind to hopefully keep our babies from coming down with this serious infection.

Don't allow people to kiss your infant on the lips. Most HSV-1 cases develop in childhood, so it isn't uncommon, but you definitely want to keep those pursed lips away from your newborn baby during the first few months of life. This includes everyone, even you — whether there are visible sores or not.

Watch out for visible sores. Keeping kissing lips away is especially true if you see someone who has a visible sore. While the virus can be transmitted when there are no sores present, it's more contagious when some are.

Know what to look out for. Older children and adults have more classic symptoms — tingling and burning on or around the lips and small blisters in the same areas. Newborns and young infants present differently. Look for a low-grade fever of 100.4 F (or more) rectally, poor feeding or one or more small blisters around the mouth.

Get treatment right away. If you notice any of those symptoms in your young baby, seek help immediately. Contact your baby's doctor, or head to urgent care of the emergency room. Even with treatment, HSV-1 can be deadly, so you have no time to lose.

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The more we, as moms, know, the better we do, and if you know any pregnant women or new mothers, it wouldn't hurt to share this information with them — it could save the lives of their children.