Baby Guide, Care & Health

Infant herpes symptoms and treatment

A droplet infection – herpes can be very dangerous for babies. What can be safe for adults may be life-threatening for newborns? The herpes virus, which is easily transmitted by kisses and caresses, can lead to serious infections in newborns.

Be mindful of herpes for the first six weeks of your life

According to pediatricians and publications of the German Green Cross (DGK), an infection with herpes viruses is particularly dangerous for babies who are younger than six weeks.

The immune system is still so weak that the herpes virus spread to the internal organs and also the brain and so can cause life-threatening infections such as meningitis. The herpes virus is not transmitted only by kissing. The common use of glasses, spoons or toothbrushes can lead to herpes infections.

The symptoms

If a newborn has been infected with herpes, it can lead to disease characteristics that are similar to blood poisoning. Some small patients show the typical cold sores on the mucous membranes, on the eyes, and on the skin.In about one-third of the herpes virus passes into the central nervous system.

Has a baby infected with herpes, a pediatrician visit is urgently recommended? In particular, the passage of infection into the eye as well as into the nervous system can lead to complicated disease processes as well as life-long lasting damage to health.

Treatment options and risk of infection

To avoid severe herpes infections in the newborn, it can be treated according to the doctor’s opinion together with the mother, if there are pronounced herpes symptoms. It will be given funds that can limit the spread of the virus.

Drugs that attack the virus directly and permanently remove it from the body, as well as vaccinations, are currently not available.

If a herpes disease of the mother in the genital area during pregnancy, this can lead to premature birth. If there is a herpes outbreak during childbirth, the pathogens can pass directly to the newborn. To avoid this, a cesarean section makes sense.

Since 90 percent of all people carry the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores, the contact with infected people for a baby is hardly avoidable. However, as long as no herpes symptoms are visible, herpes also not be transferred.

About 15 percent of the herpes carriers occasionally show the corresponding symptoms. They are often affected by cold sores once or three times a year. Due to the hormonal changes and the often lower immune system, it can come more often in pregnancy to the outbreak of herpes.

Then you should pay attention to a herpes infection

If you have herpes, it is important when dealing with your baby or toddler :

  • to renounce the kissing
  • Do not put the pacifier in your mouth
  • not to use a common drinking glass
  • to use a separate towel
  • to wash hands frequently
  • If necessary, use a surgical mask when breastfeeding, to prevent accidental contact of the cold sore by the baby, but also by the mother herself, thus minimizing the risk of transmission.

For large or recurrent herpes, it is advisable to see a doctor. Avoid scratching from itchy blisters. This leads to a spread of herpes viruses and thus often to an aggravation of the symptoms. Pay attention to whether visitors have cold sores. If so, prevent closer physical contact between the individual and your child.


Especially for still immunocompromised newborns, an infection with the herpes virus carries a great danger. In a few cases, it can lead to serious illness and even death. You should always make sure that a baby is not in close contact with people who suffer from a herpes outbreak.
If the mother of a baby is affected, a precautionary treatment with antiviral agents may be useful. Also, it is essential to take care of appropriate hygienic measures. If there is a genital herpes infection during childbirth, a cesarean section is preferable to protect the child.

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