A mother is issuing a warning after her three-year-old was covered in a rash after he caught herpes that he is believed to have got when he was kissed by a relative.
Hayley Etheridge’s son, Baylie-Grey, developed a rash across his face caused by the virus.
Ms. Etheridge, 24, was shocked to find out her unborn child, Vito, was also at risk, which could have been fatal, as the virus can also be passed on from the mother.
Herpes can be very serious in newborns due to their immune systems not being strong enough to fight off the infection.
Toddlers are less likely to face deadly complications, but Ms. Etheridge was told Baylie-Grey could go blind if the virus reached his eyes.
He has since recovered and her second son, Vito, did not catch the virus. Ms. Etheridge, from Greater Manchester, is campaigning for more awareness alongside parents who have lost their babies to the virus.
Ms. Etheridge first noticed something was wrong with Baylie-Grey after he broke out in a rash across his face and was described as overly lethargic.
At the time she was 35-weeks pregnant with her second son, Vito.
Symptoms of herpes usually begin within 20 days after being contracted. The skin becomes painful or it may itch, burn or tingle, usually around the mouth. Blisters may appear, burst and become sores.
Ms. Etheridge was advised to attend North Manchester General Hospital, where doctors told her that Baylie-Grey had contracted the HSV-1.
HSV-1 is passed through saliva and skin to skin contact. Although it is minor in adults, it is potentially dangerous for babies and young children.
An estimated 3.7billion people worldwide under the age of 50, or 67 percent of the population, had HSV-1 in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.
Ms. Etheridge believes her son caught the virus after being kissed by a relative but said it was impossible for her to know for sure who had passed it on.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Ms. Etheridge said: ‘When doctors told me it was herpes I was shocked, people assume it’s always sexually transmitted but it’s not.
‘I remember sitting and crying talking to the doctors, asking them my questions and getting answers no mother wants to hear.
‘They told me that if the virus spread to his eyes that Baylie could go blind – I was absolutely terrified.
‘I had no idea that a simple cold sore virus could be so dangerous to a child.’
Herpes simplex eye infections are a relatively common and potentially serious type of eye infection, the NHS states. But if left untreated, there’s a chance vision could be affected.
Ms. Etheridge said that her ordeal became even more frightening when doctors noticed she was pregnant, telling her she needed to be treated by staff immediately.
They told her that if she had caught the virus from Baylie-Grey, there was a strong chance she could pass the virus to her unborn son – called neonatal herpes simplex virus (HSV) – which is highly fatal.
Ms. Etheridge said: ‘Doctors told me that if I passed it on to my newborn baby it could cause blindness, brain damage or he could even be stillborn.
‘I was sat there thinking I have one child in a really serious situation and now I am being told my other baby could die. I have never been so scared in my life.’
Ms. Etheridge said she had to be kept under constant monitoring throughout the rest of her pregnancy, as doctors could not tell if anything had been passed on to her baby.
Fortunately, Ms. Etheridge’s second son was born without herpes in May 2017 and both Vito, now two, and Baylie, five, are thriving children after Baylie was treated.
Ms. Etheridge credits her fortune to the medication she received whilst being in hospital with Baylie, thanks to doctors being so ‘on the ball.’
Once infected, the herpes simplex virus becomes dormant for long periods of time and may reactivate, during which time cold sores or a rash reappear.
Ms. Etheridge said: ‘Although Baylie comes up in the virus sometimes when he is poorly and run down, he’s only been in hospital twice with it.
‘Vito is now two and has never had any problem or seemed to have contracted the virus, thankfully.’
‘Even though my story has a happy ending, some people’s don’t. Even though what happened to my family is rare, it still happens. I am one of the lucky ones.’
In 2018, Kira Aldcroft lost her newborn son after he caught the herpes HSV-2 virus from her.
The 22-year-old, also from Prestwich, had no idea that she was carrying the dormant virus – which she had unwittingly passed on to her son, Leo, during his delivery.
Both Ms. Aldcroft and Ms. Etheridge are now campaigning for mandatory testing across the UK for all pregnant women, using a blood test called the Western Blot Test.
Ms. Etheridge says she wants the virus to be widely talked about, and for new parents to be told about the risks of kissing young children.
She said: ‘People say you shouldn’t wrap your children up in bubble wrap, let them come into germs and dirt and let them learn to fight it off on their own, and that’s fine.
‘But there are some things children aren’t able to fight off, and the risk is not worth it.
‘Please be careful with your babies, they’re so tiny and fragile that even a simple kiss can break them.’
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