Girl, one, struggled to eat after ‘catching herpes from a kiss’

Mother reveals her baby girl was left unable to eat or drink ‘after catching herpes when she was kissed by a family member’

  • Lily Taylor, one, developed cold sores around her mouth earlier this year
  • Her mother said she was in too much pain to eat or drink normally 
  • She believes her daughter caught the virus from a family member who carried it
  • Neonatal herpes can be deadly because babies have weak immune systems

Katie Taylor, 34 (pictured with her daughter, Lily), said people should think twice before kissing a baby

A mother has urged parents to think twice about letting people kiss their babies after her daughter contracted herpes from a family member.

Katie Taylor, 34, from Sunderland, saw cold sores develop around the mouth of her 10-month-old daughter, Lily. 

Babies can die if they catch the strains of the herpes virus which cause cold sores while they’re very young. 

Lily, who made a full recovery and turned one in June, was in so much pain she struggled to eat or drink, according to her mother.  

Ms Taylor first noticed a red spot on Lily’s chin after coming back from a family gathering in April.

She took her daughter to see a doctor, who suggested she ‘keep an eye on it’, but it got worse when she went home.

‘At first, I thought the spot may have been related to teething but on the second day, it looked far more sinister,’ she said.

‘I returned to the doctors who recommended a soothing gel for her gums and said it was a viral infection, I thought it might be [hand,] foot and mouth.

‘The third day Lily woke up with lots of spots in and around her mouth. She was so poorly I went straight to the hospital and was told it was herpes.

‘I couldn’t believe it, I have always wrapped Lily in cotton wool as I lost a baby before her and I didn’t want her to ever contract anything harmful.’

Ms Taylor, who has two other children aged eight and 14, said she doesn’t know how her baby caught the infection but believes it came from a relative who kissed her face.

She said it took four weeks for the sores to clear up and now wants to raise awareness about the risks for other parents.

Ms Taylor said her daughter’s condition started as a single spot on her chin but then more painful sores developed and spread around her mouth

Lily, who turned one in June, had been away with family members before the cold sores developed on her mouth. Her mother said: ‘I felt like a bad parent even though it was out of my control. People should definitely think twice about kissing babies’

‘Lily had been away with family the weekend before and I know some members suffer with cold sores,’ she said.

‘The germs are there before the cold sore which is why whoever kissed her was probably unaware until a few days after.

‘It took a month for her skin to clear up and, although it wasn’t my fault, I felt embarrassed with her in public as people were looking at me like I had neglected her.

‘She was barely eating as it was too painful and I had to use a syringe to give her water, It was horrible seeing her in pain.

‘She will be prone to cold sores for the rest of her life now which makes me feel awful as it wasn’t her fault.’

When Ms Taylor took her daughter to the doctor the first time, before the sores had spread, she was told to keep an eye on the condition to see if it got worse

More sores developed over the course of a few days and Ms Taylor took her daughter to the hospital, where they said she had the herpes virus and gave her antiviral medication

Cold sores are caused by a strain of the herpes simplex virus, HSV-1, which two thirds of people worldwide are believed to have, according to the British Skin Foundation.

Once someone has contracted the virus – which is spread by skin-to-skin contact – it cannot be removed from their body.

For many people, herpes will rarely cause any issues, while others may suffer with regular sores on their lips or eyes.

The outbreaks tend to clear up by themselves within around 10 days, and antiviral creams or medications can be used to speed up the healing process.

For babies, however, the virus can be deadly. 

Neonatal herpes is rare but can be deadly for babies because their immune systems aren’t developed enough to fend off the virus, and it can spread to their vital organs. Ms Taylor (pictured with a newborn Lily) said: ‘I couldn’t believe it, I have always wrapped Lily in cotton wool as I lost a baby before her and I didn’t want her to ever contract anything harmful’

Neonatal herpes is dangerous because babies’ immune systems are not developed enough to fight off the virus, whereas older children’s and adults’ are.

A serious neonatal herpes infection can spread to the baby’s vital organs and, if this happens, it is fatal in around a third of cases.

Ms Taylor said: ‘If Lily was a little younger, this could have killed her – she was so ill and it was heart-breaking to see as there was nothing I could do. 

‘It is hard to determine who did it, but I am now super cautious of who kisses her now as I would hate for this to happen again. 

‘I felt like a bad parent even though it was out of my control. People should definitely think twice about kissing babies.’


Neonatal herpes occurs when a newborn baby catches the virus.

The herpes simplex virus is highly contagious and spreads via cold sores or genital ulcers in adults.

Herpes can be very serious in newborns due to their immune systems not being strong enough to fight off the infection.

It affects just 1.65 babies per 100,000 born in the UK compared to 33 per 100,000 in the US.

If the virus spreads to a baby’s organs, nearly a third die even if they have been treated.

A baby can be at risk if its mother catches genital herpes for the first time during the first six weeks of her pregnancy.

Such women can pass the infection to their babies if they have a vaginal delivery.

After birth, a baby is at risk of a person has a cold sore and then kisses it or if its mother breastfeeds and has herpes sores on her breasts. This can occur if she touches her cold sore and then her breasts.

Cold sores are at their most contagious when they burst but remain contagious until they have completely healed.

A baby may be infected if it:

  • Is lethargic or irritable
  • Refuses food
  • Has a fever
  • Has rashes or sores on its skin, eyes or inner mouth

If a baby becomes lifeless, will not wake, has breathing difficulties, or has a blue tongue or skin, call 999 immediately.

Treatment usually involves antiviral drugs given intravenously.

To reduce the risk of a baby being infected, people should not kiss infants if they have a cold sore and should wash their hands before touching them.

Source: NHS

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