A mum has issued a warning to other parents after her three-year-old son was ‘almost blinded’ when he contracted herpes from a single kiss.
Hayley Etheridge, 24, first noticed something was wrong with her son Baylie-Grey after he broke out in a rash across his face and became lethargic.
After taking him to the hospital, Hayley was told by doctors her son had contracted the HSV-1 Herpes Simplex Virus, which was ‘dangerously close’ to spreading to his eyes and potentially blinding him.
Now, the 24-year-old mum is calling for more awareness of HSV-1 (also known as ‘oral herpes’) after both Baylie-Grey and her unborn baby were exposed to the virus and their lives put at risk.
Hayley recently shared her terrifying ordeal on social media, warning other parents against kissing their young children or allowing other people to kiss them.
Addressing her followers, she wrote:
People hear the word herpes and think it’s sexually transmitted and their babies are going to be fine, but that is far from the case.
HSV-1 is highly contagious, it can be passed through saliva, skin to skin contact, and simply just touching something that has been handled by someone who has the HSV-1 virus.
Sometimes when children catch the virus it can spread from the lips to the gums and mouth, and in more serious cases, it’s spreads further up the face and to the eyes. This is what happened to Baylie-Grey.
The virus which is spread through saliva and skin-to-skin contact can be extremely dangerous for babies and young children.
Symptoms of oral herpes include painful blisters or ulcers in and around the mouth, as well as cold sores on the lips. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), HSV-1 – like HSV-2, or ‘genital herpes’ – is lifelong and the blisters or ulcers can periodically recur after the initial infection.
Hayley believes her son caught the virus after being kissed by a relative, although she said it was impossible for her to know for sure who had passed it on.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Hayley said she was ‘shocked’ when doctors at North Manchester General Hospital told her the diagnosis.
The mother said:
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.
Hayley’s ordeal became even more frightening when doctors noticed she was pregnant, informing her she needed to be treated by staff immediately because she could pass the virus on to her unborn baby if she had caught it from Baylie-Grey.
Doctors told the mum if she passed HSV-1 on to her baby, it could cause blindness and brain damage. She was also warned there could be fatal consequences and he could 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.
Thankfully, her second son, Vito, was born healthy in May 2017 and both he and Baylie, now five, are thriving children. The virus does flare up in her eldest son sometimes, but only when he is poorly and run down, and he has ‘only been in hospital twice with it’.
Hayley puts this down to doctors being so ‘on the ball’ and describes herself as ‘one of the lucky ones’.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).