If you’re prone to outbreaks, and you have a new baby, you must take steps to keep them safe from the HSV-1 virus. That’s the main reason why you need to know if cold sores can be passed on to a baby through breast milk.
Although you do need to be careful, the good news is that breast milk won’t pass on the cold sore virus to a newborn. Babies are at greater risk of being kissed or touched by a friend/relative who is a carrier, or coming into contact with infected items.
Around 80 million people in the United States carry the herpes virus. There is a good chance, at some point, your child will come into contact with someone with cold sores. You should do all you can to protect them from getting the virus. Once infected, it’s with them for life.
Herpes can affect a newborn differently than an adult. Because their immune systems have not fully developed, HSV-1 can cause infections in young babies. This article will address the issue of safe breastfeeding with a cold sore, as well as what can be done to avoid them getting infected.
Can My Baby Get a Cold Sore Through Breastfeeding?
We’ve established that breast milk will not transfer a cold sore from a mother to baby. However, there are other causes of cold sores in babies. Because fever blisters last for 10 to 14 days without treatment, that’s a substantial window of opportunity to spread the virus. By shortening the life cycle to just 72 hours with the Virulite cold sore machine, this will minimize the likelihood of passing on the infection.
If your baby catches the virus and develops cold sores, it could lead to other potential infections, or make them reluctant to eat. These blisters can be painful, even for adults, so if your baby develops a cold sore and refuses to nurse, you may have to seek out feeding alternatives.
What Can I Do if I Have a Blister on My Mouth?
You may not worry about your baby touching your mouth while they’re breastfeeding, but you should still take precautions. It’s easy to touch your mouth/face throughout the day and then touch your baby.
Additionally, cold sores are spread by kissing your baby on the cheek, forehead, etc. It’s the little things you may not think about on a daily basis that could spread the virus. Keep the following tips in mind so that your baby is safe from a potential outbreak:
- If you have a cold sore on your mouth, keep it away from your baby. Don’t kiss them as long as the cold sore is visible, or for several days after.
- The first signs of a cold sore include things like tingling or itching around the mouth. At the first sign of these symptoms, take caution around your newborn. A cold sore doesn’t have to be open or scabbed over to be contagious.
- Don’t let your baby touch the sore with any part of their body. It doesn’t have to be mouth-to-mouth contact. If they come in contact with a blister (with hands, feet, etc.), they can catch the virus.
- Wash your hands, especially after touching your face or mouth, and before you touch or pick up your child.
- Put a clean blanket or towel on your lap before nursing your baby.
- Cover your cold sore with a surgical mask while breastfeeding, or if your baby is near your face. This will reduce the risk of you touching your face and then your child, or the baby reaching up and accidentally coming into contact with the blister.
- Avoid sharing towels or blankets with your baby as long as you have a blister.
Medications That Treat a Cold Sore While Breastfeeding
Most cold sore medications are topical, and shouldn’t be a problem when you’re breastfeeding. Medications such as acyclovir are often used to weaken cold sores or prevent flare-ups from occurring frequently. Multiple studies have found that there are few adverse effects associated with these types of medications taken while nursing.
However, before using any medication to stop a flare-up, whether orally or topically, consult with a doctor about potential side effects for you and your child. There isn’t much research about passing the effects of medication through breast milk. Making sure it’s entirely safe before using it can prevent your child from experiencing any negative side effects.
What If I Have a Cold Sore On or Near My Breast?
Cold sores usually appear on or around the mouth. However, they can occur elsewhere on the body through contact. If a blister appears near your breast, extra breastfeeding precautions must be taken to protect your baby.
The best thing you can do if you have a herpes blister on or near your breast is to limit or stop breastfeeding altogether until it is gone. You can nurse from the other side as long as you make sure your baby’s skin doesn’t come in contact with the blister somehow. Additionally, make sure you don’t touch the blister and then touch your baby.
As an alternative, you can choose to pump milk from that breast. If you use a machine to do so, make sure the sore doesn’t touch your hands or any part of the pumping device. If it does, that milk isn’t usable for your baby and will have to be thrown out. When pumping isn’t an option, you may choose to supplement your breast milk with formula until the blister has completely healed.
Natural Ways to Heal Cold Sores
Cold sores will clear up on their own after going through several stages. However, most people choose a treatment to speed up healing and reduce pain and irritation. This is even more important when you’re nursing a baby, and need the blister to be gone. If you’d prefer not to take an over-the-counter medication, here are some alternatives:
- Increasing your intake of Vitamin C and Vitamin E. This can be done through your daily diet, or through oral supplements.
- Applying aloe vera directly to the sore. It’ll soothe irritation and speed up healing.
- Using a cold compress or cotton ball soaked in milk. Not only will it calm inflammation, but the proteins in the milk will fight off the virus.
- Making a paste of cornstarch and water. Corn starch will neutralize the pH of the sore. Since the virus thrives in more acidic environments, making it more alkaline will shorten the healing time.
The sooner you can get rid of your blister, the safer general interactions with your baby will be. Any of these natural solutions should be completely safe for you and your newborn throughout the healing process.
What if My Baby Catches the Virus?
If you believe your child has contracted the herpes simplex virus through contact, you should take them to their pediatrician immediately. In infants younger than three months old, the virus can potentially spread into the organs and cause permanent damage. Be aware of the following symptoms that may indicate your baby has caught the virus:
- Inflamed gums
- Soreness of the mouth
- High fever
- Swollen lymph nodes
Some symptoms may be mild. So, if your baby has had any exposure to a blister, pay close attention to any potential changes or abnormalities they may be experiencing.
Breastfeeding Precautions with HSV1
It’s not possible to pass on the herpes simplex virus through breast milk. However, it is possible in other ways. Even holding a baby when you have a cold sore can be dangerous, especially if you’ve touched the sore with your hands. The virus spreads so easily, and so rapidly, it’s imperative to take extra precautions with a newborn.
While your baby won’t contract the virus from milk, be aware of what they are coming in contact with if you have a blister anywhere on your body. It doesn’t matter if it’s directly visible or in an early or healing stage. The virus can be contagious, no matter what.
By taking extra steps to protect your baby from HSV, and making sure any medications you’re taking aren’t transferred through breast milk, you can help to prevent the spread of the virus. With millions of people affected by it, there’s a good chance your child will get it one day. However, in this crucial and delicate stage of life, it’s important to protect them from it as long as possible.