The joy of having a new baby is irresistible. Babies are adorable and it is natural that friends and families will want to shower them tons of affection and love. For many people, that means taking turns to cuddle them or kissing the baby either on the cheek or the head.
Certainly, these are signs of affection, but researchers say although cuddling a new baby is safe, they should, however, not be kissed for whatever reason whether on the cheeks or head.
As it turns out, kissing a baby on the lips or near the mouth can be very dangerous. It is an easy way to transfer diseases like kissing disease, Common RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), whooping cough or cold sore to a new baby whose immunity is yet developed.
RSV is a viral condition where a baby’s lungs gets infected, making breathing difficult for the baby. Besides, in babies, the air tubes for breathing are of tiny size and very thin, so inflammation caused by infection can prove fatal.
Kissing disease is a nickname given to the term ‘mononucleosis’, an infection which is passed through saliva, often through kissing. Although it is highly known to occur among teenagers and adults, it can affect infants too.
In infants and children, the condition results in a runny nose or cranky behaviour and may also lead to respiratory problems in rare cases. It is a viral disease and does not have any treatment. The child has to bear through the illness until his immune system helps to get rid of the infection on its own.
A whooping cough is one of the highly contagious diseases that can spread through a kiss by the infected person. The infected adult or older child may show no signs of pertussis. At such a time, if they kiss a small baby, the baby gets exposed to germs, which can prove fatal to their lungs.
“We do not encourage babies to be kissed especially those very young babies. The same way we do not even encourage those people, including relatives, to carry them anyhow because their immunity is low,” said Professor Regina Oladokun, a consultant pediatrician, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State.
She declared that by the time, babies have grown above infancy and have acquired some immunity against a lot of these germs, they can withstand the onslaught.
In a recent post on Facebook, Claire Henderson, a mother in Doncaster of the United Kingdom posted pictures of her 18-day-old baby hospitalised 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. The child was admitted to hospital and was there for many days fighting with the virus spreading across her body.
Cold sores (also called fever blisters) are caused by the herpes virus. It is highly contagious. They can spread through saliva, skin-to-skin contact, or by touching an object handled by someone infected with the virus. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of the population has herpes without even knowing it.
There are two different types of herpes virus: oral herpes virus (HSV-1) and genital herpes virus (HSV-2). Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV 1) is one of the most common germs found in the mouth of human beings. 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, can cause severe infections like brain, lung and liver disease in newborns.
Professor Oladunkun added “the cold sore can go deeper in the body to other parts of the body, including the brain when it gets very severe.”
Cold sores and other blisters on the skin, eyes and inside the mouth caused by the herpes virus are at their most contagious when they burst. They remain contagious until completely healed.
Dr Olutosin Awolude, consultant Obstetrics and Gynecologist at the hospital stated that since herpes zoster can affect the skin, kissing a newborn may cause a newborn to contact many diseases, including HIV and herpes zoster.
He said body fluids of people with viral diseases like cold sore and HIV can transmit such diseases even to a newborn.
Dr Awolude, however, raised a poser on the Claire Henderson’s baby case if what the baby had was an eye infection.
According to him, “if the new baby had developed an eye infection, to suggest that this was contacted from a kiss from a wellwisher may be doubtful. Let’s be sure it is not primarily from the mother.
“There is the possibility that the new baby had Ophthalmic Chlamydia. That might not even be from herpes. If a pregnant woman has Chlamydia infection and delivers through the vagina, the baby’s eye could catch the infection when passing through the birth canal.
“Even gonococci infection can give an eye infection. When a woman has Chlamydia or Gonococci infection, it does not show in woman like it does in a man. Within 42 hours, he may start to experience symptoms such as a peppery sensation.
“In women, rather than the disease manifesting, it will just be causing damage silently. So, the child should be taken to the pediatrician who should make culture from the discharge from the eye to know its cause.”
Howbeit the virus from cold sores can spread to the eyes, which can lead to HSV keratitis, an infection of the cornea—the clear dome that covers the coloured part of the eye.
The infection usually heals without damaging the eye, but more severe infections can lead to scarring of the cornea or blindness. HSV keratitis is a major cause of blindness worldwide.
Is it weird for parents to kiss their kids on the lips? Parents’ kissing their baby is normal, but at the same time, it is essential that the parent safeguards the baby from contracting hazardous infections. One of the key points to consider is not letting anyone kiss the baby on or near the mouth, specifically during the initial three months of birth.
Luckily, Pediatrics state that infection with the herpes virus is uncommon for infants. But, when it occurs in babies, it is usually treated with antiviral drugs given directly into the baby’s vein (intravenously). This treatment may be needed for several weeks. Any related complications, such as fits (seizures), will also need to be treated.
Howbeit, once a child is infected with the cold sore virus, it is more likely to return during times when the body’s immune system is run down or the skin becomes irritated from other causes.
Common cold-sore triggers for children previously exposed to the virus include fatigue and stress; exposure to intense sunlight, heat, cold, or dryness; illness (like cold), as well as dehydration and poor diet.
Although there is currently no cure for cold sores, the good news is that they go away on their own. Some may take a little longer than others to heal.