Written by Sahana Charan and published on 01 June 2021.
Is your little one cranky because of painful blisters around her mouth? It could be an infection called oral herpes, also known as cold sores. Here's what you need to know
When Neena found her 11-month-old son repeatedly scratching the area around his little mouth and nose, she attributed it to dryness of the skin. But when the baby's discomfort persisted and small ulcer-like, fluid-filled protrusions started to appear around his lips, Neena became worried. A visit to the doctor revealed that the little one had a case of baby cold sores, a viral infection, which can sometimes cause severe complications in babies. The good news is, timely treatment and care can help heal the infection.
Cold sores are a group of small, round and fluid-filled blisters that are quite painful and appear mostly around the lips, nose or cheek area and occasionally inside the mouth of a baby. After the blisters appear, they may break and fluid might leak. Thereafter a crust forms over the area, which dries up and disappears in a few days. The infection may last for one to two weeks.
Both children and adults can get cold sores, but the infection can turn serious in children who are under six months of age. A cold sore, also called a fever blister, is a common viral infection and has nothing to do with the common cold. Some parents may mistake cold sores for canker sores or blister on the baby's lip (what we know as mouth sores/ulcers), which are painful but rarely appear outside the mouth.
Cold sores in babies are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is responsible for genital herpes. There are two strains of HSV. Mouth sores are most often caused by strain 1 (HSV-1), while genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. The viral infection is highly contagious and spreads through close contact.
A person who is infected with the HSV-1 virus can spread it to a baby by kissing, through infected saliva or by sharing items such as towels, toiletries and utensils.
Parents need to remember that the HSV-1 can be dormant in an infected person for some time before cold sores appear, so it is a good idea to discourage anyone to kiss or come in close contact with your little one.
Cold sores are more likely to appear after exposure to the sun, due to stress or in those who have weak immunity.
Dr Sachin Bhise says, "In most children, the HSV-1 does not cause any severe problems. However, since newborns and babies are vulnerable to infection as their immune systems are not fully developed, they are at risk of complications of cold sores."
Some of these complications include:
One rare complication of mouth sores infection is neonatal herpes, which is caused by type 1 or type 2 of the herpes simplex virus. If a woman contracts genital herpes during pregnancy, her baby can get infected with the virus during birth, causing neonatal herpes. This infection can potentially be dangerous to the child as it can lead to complications such as respiratory problems, brain damage or even death.
Early detection and prompt treatment of cold sores in infants can help ease the symptoms of HSV-1 infection. Contact your child's pediatrician, if the blisters do not seem to heal fast or are accompanied by fever or sore throat. Here are some of the treatment options:
Home remedies for cold sores in babies
Cold sores, if treated effectively at the early stages, do not pose much risk to toddlers and older children. However, they can prove a threat to infants under the age of one. It is recommended that parents consult their doctor to avoid any unwanted complications arising.
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