Whilst cold sores can be common and relatively harmless in toddlers and older children, the cold sore virus can be dangerous and even cause death for babies, as there immune systems aren’t yet developed. For this reason, it’s understandable that a new mum would not allow someone with an active infection to kiss her newborn, but would it be an overreaction not to allow them to touch or hold the baby at all? One mum recently took to the popular Reddit forum Am I the Asshole to ask whether she went too far when she told her Dad, who had driven 6 hours to meet his new grandchild, that he was not allowed to hold the newborn or even hug his toddler granddaughter due to him having a cold sore.
My parents are visiting this weekend to meet our newborn baby. They drove over 6 hours and have been excitedly calling and texting me for days before this trip telling me how much they can’t wait to be here. When they arrived yesterday my dad had a bump starting to form on his lip. I know he gets cold sores so I ask if that was one. He responded that it was just a zit so I dropped it.
Today he came over with an open cold sore and asked if he would get a chance to nap with the newborn on his chest. I told him that with the cold sore I would not allow it and he dejectedly sighed that it was okay. Shortly after my toddler ran to his arms to be picked up to which I told my dad that I wasn’t comfortable with him holding her either. While she wailed for him to pick her up he stated that he was going to step outside for a minute while wiping tears away from his face. He walked down the driveway and has been gone for close to four hours and isn’t answering his phone. My mom also seems upset with me.
Am I the asshole for telling my dad he can’t hold my children while he has an open cold sore?
The response from commenters was very mixed, with some people considering her decision as the only sensible option under the circumstances.
NTA. Cold sores (especially around the mouth) are often caused by herpes simplex virus. This is not the same as sexual transmited herpes but could be dangerous for kids and especially babies Please see below
“In the vast majority of children, cold sores are annoying and painful but don’t cause complications or serious consequences. In rare cases, the herpes simplex virus can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). This is a serious illness and needs to be treated right away. It can lead to long-term problems of the brain.
Cold sores in a newborn baby can cause serious illness and death. This may be the case even when treated with medicine.”
You did a right thing not allowing your dad to hold your kids during the flare up. You do need to explain the reasoning to your parents and ask them to read up on the risk. It does not mean your dad can not touch the kids, he just need to be careful during flare ups.. – ItIsNotaManual1984
Exactly. My mother is a nurse in a children’s hospital and has seen children dying because of herpes virus more than once. These were healthy children until they got that virus.
My FIL almost did the same until I had my spouse explain that his grandchild could die. -PollythePony1993
My mom is 70. She still gets cold sores a few times a year, because an adult with a cold sore kissed her when she was a toddler. Her mom wouldn’t stop them because it would have been rude. Literally one kiss created an ongoing medical issue for almost 70 years now.
I understand why grandpa is sad. I’d probably be sad too. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the right call. There are better treatment and prevention options for cold sores these days, so encourage your dad to talk to a doctor if he hasn’t done that recently. And work together to find other ways he can safely interact with the kiddos this trip. – ka-ka-ka-katie1123
As an Epidemiologist, this is a great response! Beyond HSV, literally anything even resembling an open sore can lead to a problem for newborns. I agree, I think you should explain the situation just to ensure nobody’s feelings are hurt. But you did the right thing for your family’s health. – saint_ursa
However not everyone agreed with the new mum’s stance, pointing out that cold sores are spread by skin-to-skin contact, and not airborne, and that by taking proper hygiene measures it would have been safe to allow her dad to hold her new baby and toddler.
I’m a registered nurse who cares for newborns. Like others have said, HSV is spread by contact, in this case that would be grandpa kissing the kids. No, it is not airborne and no is it not spread by respiratory particles. The issue could’ve easily been solved by having him wear a mask the entire time he interacted with the kids and thoroughly washed his hands before and after (although even that is overkill tbh, but it would be an acceptable solution). The man was heartbroken.
If you were really concerned you could’ve easily called the pediatrician’s office and asked what steps could be taken to prevent transmission (and they would’ve told you hand washing and no kissing). – Nebraska_jones_
I’m on the fence why couldn’t he just wear a mask and you made sure he washed his hands and doesn’t kiss the kids . Going complete contactless when I don’t think he can spread from hugging someone . Idk I’m confused – Soflawlessly_
There is so much misinformation being spread in this thread. HSV is a very common skin condition that is spread through direct contact with secretions. The virus does not survive long on surfaces and indirect transmission is extremely unlikely. The risk here was basically 0%. I guess I don’t blame a new mom for being worried but I also don’t blame grandpa for being disappointed that he drove 6 hours only to be told he can’t touch his grandchild because of an extremely stigmatized illness – Future-Sky_1308
Many people were sympathetic to her father and how heartbroken he was by his daughter’s no contact rule.
YTA. Cold sores aren’t airborne. No kissing baby, make him wash his hands throughly. A mask if it makes you feel better.
But banning him from touching the kids? Why is that necessary? He drove 6 hours to see them. It’s not like he lives next door. This is priceless, precious time with them he’ll never get back. I’m so sad for him. – WhyNotBuyaGoat
It is an overreaction, because cold sores are spread by direct contact. He would have to kiss the kids for it to spread to them. Washing hands, no kissing, and for extra safety wearing a mask is more than sufficient. To not let him hold the baby at all is massive overkill. – NecessaryClothes9076
What do you think? Would you have allowed grandad to hold the newborn if he thoroughly washed his hands and wore a face mask to prevent transmission?