[Question #4909] I had Syphilis. Feel Paranoid about Parent-Child Transmission

27 months ago
Dear doctors,

Over a year ago, I was diagnosed with syphilis and cured. It was 2nd stage (rash on palms) which is causing me concern.

The doctor told me that people get infected by, "contact with mucous membrane on genitals, anus, and mouth".

So, that said, I do feel intellectually silly for my concern about hand-body transmission to my child, but can't shake the feeling of worry that has recently come over me (I wasn't concerned until recently).

I recently recalled my child getting - what was believed  to be - a bedsore at the top of her back. This occurred right after a period of time when she was unwell and bed-ridden (so it made sense, the risk of pressure ulcer was there).

But, it also occured around 6 weeks-ish (not sure of exact time) after I started treatment. I had the rash on my hands prior to treatment and often would have hand-body contact with her (e.g. putting soap on her back in shower, holding hands etc.)

I am concerned the sore on her back was a chancre resulting from infection from my hand rash (which was closed and dry), however I may have had knicks or scrapes on my hands (and so may she, on her body). 

I have read answers from Dr Hook and Handsfield before that this sort of transmission is theoretical and not known to actually occur. 

Correct me if I misunderstood? Is this a real risk or just a theoretical one?

Do you know of chancres occuring on the back? Do you know of any such infections?

Would you reccomend testing? Or just try to forget about it?

I feel irrational and anxious. Sorry for long message.





H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
27 months ago
Welcome back to the forum. Thanks for your continuing confidence in our services, and for researching other questions related to your concerns. 

You correctly cite our previous statements. I endorse them:  we haven't changed our minds! Syphilis or other STDs simply are not transmitted to household members through nonsexual contact. Should a child in your home turn up with syphilis or any other STD, it would be considered exceedingly strong evidence that sexual abuse had occurred; it would be almost impossible to find an expert witness to testify otherwise.

Also, the time from your diagnosis and treatment to your child's skin problem guarantees it wasn't syphilis. Syphilis becomes non-transmissible, even to partners through unprotected sex, within 24 hours of the first penicillin injection.

I hope this information is helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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27 months ago
Thank you, doctor.

I think you may have me mistaken with another user though. I have never asked a question before.

I was a reader of medhelp.org for some time, though I never paid for a question to be answered by an expert.

I only discovered you are working over here on this website today and thought I would ask you.

Anyway, thanks for your response. I will put this behind me with your reassurance that such transmission does not occur.

Thank you
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
27 months ago
Oops -- you're right of course! I responded to 4 questions in rapid sequence -- that was someone else. You'll soon see an edited version of my initial reply. My apology.

And very glad my reply was helpful. Ignore the closing paragraph, which will soon disappear anyway.
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27 months ago
That's ok! Thanks again.