All About Babies

Why a Newborn Could Die From a Kiss

Have a cold sore? Kissing a baby could be deadly for the little one.

Having a cold sore and kissing a baby could be deadly. Shutterstock
Cold sores pretty much suck. They're painful, they're ugly, and when it comes to newborn babies, they can be deadly.

Say what?

I didn't know about that last part either, until I heard about Lynette Clare, whose newborn daughter Chloe almost died from a kiss back in 2013, after she was infected with a virus caused by a cold sore. Three years later, the mom of four is making it her mission to educate others.

"I had no idea cold sores could be so dangerous to newborn babies," Clare told Huffington Post. "There just isn't that awareness at all, but there desperately needs to be."

Chloe was only five days old when her temperature suddenly spiked to 42 degrees Celsius (that's 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit!). Clare rushed her to the emergency department, where she was told by doctors that her baby girl might not make it through the night.

It was every parent's nightmare—your child suddenly becomes sick, you have no idea why, and no clue how to make it better. But baby Chloe had been kissed by a family friend with a cold sore just days earlier—something a hospital consultant eventually realized had led to her contracting HSV-1 encephalitis.

"Luckily, when the consultant worked out it must have been linked to a cold sore she was put on antivirals and responded well to them," Clare said. "I just feel so lucky it was caught at the right time. I was told afterwards if I had waited until the morning before taking her into hospital she probably wouldn't be here today."

A scary episode, for sure. And one that, sadly, could have been prevented with the proper education.

"It is completely natural to want to kiss a newborn baby, you just want to shower them with love and kisses. How were we to know a cold sore could have caused this?" Chloe said. "None of the midwives on the maternity ward had warned me about cold sores being a risk. I just had no idea they were dangerous in any way. I think there should be something given out in the packs which are given to new mums."

We do, too!

Chloe is 3 today and doing well. But she has been diagnosed with microcephaly—which doctors believe is linked to the HSV-1—and she suffers from speech problems and other minor developmental delays that could possibly be related to the virus as well.

Clare is campaigning to raise awareness of the condition with mom Claire Henderson, whose own daughter was hospitalized with HSV-1 in September 2015 after being kissed by a visitor with a cold sore. They've launched a petition asking the government to provide new parents with information on the dangers of cold sores to newborn babies, and they've gotten over 1,000 signatures so far.

"Parents just have to know about this and if I can save at least one other family from going through the same thing then it has all been worth it," Clare said. "I nearly lost my daughter and what I went through that first night is something no parent should have to go through. It's a nightmare that never goes away."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.