[Question #1278] HSV and children

47 months ago

Hello,

Both my wife and I been diagnosed with HSV1 and HSV2 (both from blood tests, but no further info on subtypes seem to have been given). We both have gotten HSV2 lesions on genitals in the past but my wife has not had any in about a year and they were always quite small. Even though we both have been diagnosed with HSV1, only I am symptomatic. We have two young children (age 2 and age 5 months) and I am anxious about them contracting it from others, to the point where I often do not enjoy events with family and friends who might have herpes.

My question- my wife clearly has some good antibodies for both viruses; as she breast fed both of them, would they have received her antibodies and therefore have reduced risk of having a symptomatic HSV infection (or any serious HSV infection for that matter)?

Second question- my father had a cold sore a couple of months ago and kissed my younger child (would have been three months at the time) on the top of the head and also on the cheek. I did not reprimand him because I (perhaps foolishly) thought that the virus was only transmitted via mucous membranes and via breaks in skin. Is this the case or can HSV1 get through the skin?

Finally- as my children get older I am less anxious about the risks to them of contracting HSV1 due to their immune systems getting stronger. I know this is perhaps an unanswerable question, but is there an age threshold whereby one need not worry as much about a child being more vulnerable to more serious HSV1 complications such as encephalitis?

Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
47 months ago
Your children would have acquired antibodies from your wife at the end of her pregnancy, in utero, correct.  But after about 6 months, assuming they are not infected, the antibody would be gone.  So they are both likely negative for antibody at this point.

I think it is highly unlikely  that  the kiss on the top of the head and cheek would infect your child because there really wasn't a point of entry into your child, but honestly, just in case he slipped or something unexpected happened, I would encourage your dad NOT to kiss your infant at all when he has a cold sore.  We had a situation in Portland several years ago where a grandfather kissed a newborn on the lips with a cold sore, the mom ended up with herpes on her nipple from the baby breastfeeding because she had no HSV 1 antibody and the infant subsequently passed away at about 3 weeks of age.  So the kissing babies with a cold sore is a real deal.  I just think taking no chances are better. Would you agree?

I don't know the answer to the question about at what age are children OK to get cold sores.  I'm going to ask a friend who is a pediatric herpes expert and see what he has to say.  If and when he responds to me, I'll let you know the answer.

Terri
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46 months ago
Dear Terri, thank you for your reply. Have you heard back from your colleague? 
Also, I was wondering if my wife's antibodies might continue to be passed onto my 6 month old if she continues to breast feed (albeit about half of the time)?
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
46 months ago
 The expert said that the child should be able to withstand a herpes infection at age 6 weeks of age AND breastfeeding doesn't make a difference for the herpes one way or the other.

Terri
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