Herpes Viruses & How It Affects Children

157_ Are Children Safe If Infected With Herpes_ alexandra harbushka blog

Will herpes impact your child's health?

There’s been a lot of parents or people who want to become parents  recently asked about their kids. When were diagnosed with herpes were worried that we could potentially pass this to someone we love and of course accidentally to our kids. 

I want to cover the facts and how you can prevent transmission to your kids. 

Over the years I’ve had people reach out to me with questions and of course stories when it comes to herpes and their kids. I’ve had parents not hug or kiss their kids because they didn’t want to pass it to their child. Or I had a dad say he never got in the swimming pool with his kids because he was worried his kids would catch it. THe stories go on and on and it truly saddens me to hear that parents are missing out on such tender moments with their children. 

So let’s get down to it and talk about herpes and your kids. 

Let's start at the beginning and cover what herpes is and how it’s transmitted. I go into this in real depth here but here's the cliff notes. There’s HSV 1 which is typically oral and HSV 2 which is typically genital however they are interchangeable and they both can go to either region. If your infected only orally then you can not transmit herpes genitally and vise versa. Herpes is most contagious via skin to skin but also the virus can be spread by sharing glasses, utensils, towels and washcloths or anything else that you can think of that would come in contact with the virus and then be shared with someone else. Again. I cover this a ton in other episodes so go check them out. 

Let’s start at the very beginning of your child's life, and talk about the risks of having a mother who’s infected with herpes. I cover this also in other episodes so you can go here for the full breakdown. If the mother does not have a herpes outbreak at the time of delivery  and she delivers vaginally then there’s a less than 1% chance of the baby contracting herpes. The good news is this is very low and it’s important that you communicate your herpes diagnosis with your doctor and come up with a birth plan that works for you. 

Ok so what happens if the baby contracts herpes at birth? Well it can be dangerous because the baby doesn’t have the immune system and the strength to really fight it. Here’s a list of the complications that can occur if a newborn picks up the virus. They can be severe and life-threatening symptoms, including:

  • Fatal organ damage, including the liver, lungs, and heart
  • Serious viral infections, such as viral meningitis
  • Recurrent sores on the skin, eyes, genitals, or mouth
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Seizures

Something to make sure you as a parent are aware of is this is for both HSV 1 & 2. In other words if someone comes to visit your baby and has a cold sore on their mouth and kisses your baby in the hospital your baby has just been exposed to the herpes virus.  The best way to keep your newborn safe is ask all visiting relatives to wash their hands and if someone has an active outbreak to ask them to please not touch your baby for the risk of transmission is too high. 

Now let’s move on past newborn stage and to your kids life. Of course, we don’t want our kids to get herpes nor do we want to be the ones to give it to them but it can happen and guess what. Your kid will be just fine. 

Yes, it hurts and it’s embarrassing and it’s annoying but let’s face it. The majority of the population has herpes. You can’t blame yourself nor do you want to miss out on normal parental activities with your child. 

The only risk that is really associated with your child getting herpes is there’s a very low chance the herpes virus can cause Encephalitis. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain and it can be quite dangerous if it goes untreated. If this occurs, you’ll want to get your child into see a doctor ASAP. The inflammation of the brain is more common in children and the elderly because they don’t always have the immune system to fight it off. 

By informing you of this information I don’t want you to feel like you can never become a parent, never touch a child and of course heaven forbid touch your child. That would be ridiculous and just so sad. The point in me clarifying this is to let you know what actually happens so that you’re aware but also know that these risks are so low that it’s not something to be too concerned with. 

Remember the story about the dad who never got in the swimming pool with his kids because he didn’t want to pass the herpes virus to his kids. Well, in my opinion there was far worse damage done by not swimming with your kids then potentially exposing them. Oh and by the way, you can not pass herpes in the pool. Then remember the mom who hadn't held, cuddled or kissed her child in two years because she was worried about passing herpes. Well again, in my opinion that does far worse damage than potentially transmitting herpes to your kid because you smother them with love and oops they accidentally got herpes. 

If you’re a parent take this information and make decisions on what best suits you, you’re lifestyle and if you feel inclined, talk to your doctor. I just don’t want you to miss out or feel like you’re not able to love your kids the way you want to. Herpes is just a silly skin condition that has a horrible stigma attached to it. THAT IS IT!

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