Why you should never kiss a newborn on the lips
- Credit: Tony Bayliss
A family from Stanningfield near Bury St Edmunds have spoken out about the dangers of kissing newborn babies on the lips after their daughter contracted neonatal herpes and suffered permanent damage.
Teigan Bayliss, who is now seven, was born a healthy baby at 9lbs 2oz but at two weeks old mum Rebecca noticed something wasn’t right.
She was breastfeeding her newborn when she noticed Teigan was lethargic and didn’t want to feed.
She phoned for a doctor and as she did Rebecca and husband Tony noticed Teigan’s arm begin to twitch.
The panicked couple rushed their daughter to A&E at West Suffolk Hospital.
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The triage nurse tried to reassure the couple, but Rebecca admits she knew at this stage they knew their daughter was seriously unwell.
“The first doctor who looked at Teigan said she was fitting and at that point your world tears down,” said the mum-of-five.
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Doctors were quick to diagnose Teigan with neonatal herpes – better known as the cold sore virus.
“Doctors asked us if Teigan had been around someone with a cold sore that might have kissed her on the lips,” said Rebecca.
The family believe she had been in contact with someone who may have passed the virus on.
Teigan, who now attends Great Whelnetham Primary School, remained in the Rainbow Ward of West Suffolk Hospital for three weeks but her ordeal was not over.
Over the next nine months doctors carried out developmental reviews on and she was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the result of meningitis.
The experience was a harrowing one for Rebecca, Tony and their family – but they believe it was Teigan’s smile that got them through the incredibly difficult time.
Now the family are campaigning to raise awareness of the herpes simplex virus that causes neonatal herpes – and make people more aware of the dangers of kissing a newborn.
“We want to spread awareness of it because at the same time Teigan was on the Rainbow Ward at West Suffolk Hospital the same thing had happened to another child and they didn’t make it.”
Tony said: “I would say under no circumstances should anyone, even their parents, ever kiss a newborn baby on the lips.”
While Rebecca added: “Sometimes there is more meaning kissing your baby on their forehead. ”
How many parents know about the dangers of kissing their baby on the lips?
Sam Dale from the Bury St Edmunds bump buddies, mums, babies and children Facebook group recently polled parents to find out how many people of the risk the cold sore virus posed to babies.
Of the 76 parents who responded, 13 admitted they had no idea it was dangerous.
Mum Chloe Halliday said: “I found out about it from my baby due date group back in 2017, otherwise I would never have known. It’s not spoken about much. So it is a word of mouth thing.
“There needs to be A LOT more information about it.”
Sam said: “It’s about time the leaflets, booklets and Bounty packs were updated.”
What are midwives doing to raise awareness?
Helen Smith, consultant midwife at Ipswich Hospital, says that midwives do have conversations with mums and mums-to-be that have signs of a cold sore but neonatal herpes is not something they routinely warn about.
However, Helen said that Tony’s advice to not kiss newborns on the lips is “sensible”.
“A baby’s immune system is not fully developed so they are more susceptible to infection,” she added.
She also stressed the importance of washing your hands before holding a newborn.
Where can you get information about the cold sore virus?
Helen said for the most up-to-date information about neonatal herpes parents can visit the NHS choices website which is regularly updated.
It says: “If you develop a cold sore or think you are coming down with a herpes infection, do not kiss any babies, wash your hands before contact with a baby.
Further advice includes: “Wash your hands before breastfeeding and cover up any cold sores to avoid accidentally touching your mouth and then breast – this is enough to transfer the virus.”
The cold sore virus can also be given to babies from genital herpes, which is also discussed with mums that are suffering from this infection.
Helen recommends that anyone concerned can read about it on the NICE website.
Find out more about TeiganSmile
Tony and Rebecca have started TeiganSmile to help raise even more awareness of the dangers of kissing a baby on the lips.
They also want to raise funds to help with the cost of the equipment Teigan needs.
Ultimately, they want to send Teigan overseas for stem cell therapy that could greatly improve the quality of her life.
You can find out about the festival they have planned, called TeigyFest, here.