Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), or herpes, is an incurable, infectious virus carried by thousands of adults and children which typically is spread through sexual contact. Transmissions, however, can also occur from a pregnant mother to her unborn child. Additionally, infection is common in children, as it is easily spread by close contact and the sharing of eating utensils, toys or other objects. Although not always recognized-or present-there are symptoms of herpes which will signal the presence of the infection in your child.
There are 2 primary types of the herpes virus: HSV-1 which typically affects the skin and upper body and HSV-2, primarily producing reactions in the genital area and lower body. These viruses will cause lifelong and repeated outbreaks of infection and manifestation of herpes symptoms.
Symptoms of HSV-1 include cold sores and fever blisters in or around the mouth or on the lips. These lesions are often more painful the first time they manifest but become less severe in later outbreaks. Many herpes sufferers experience certain symptoms prior to an outbreak which signal that new lesions are soon to appear. These warning symptoms can include tingling, tenderness, pain, swollen glands, headache or fever.
HSV-2, or genital herpes, infection can produce crusty blisters or ulcers in the genital or rectal areas. Flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, swollen glands) can come afterward and sufferers may also experience pain while urinating, discharge from infected areas and itching, burning, tingling or other sensations in the groin area.
Symptoms are sometimes unrecognizable or do not manifest at all, making it difficult to know your child is actually infected with HSV.
After HSV-1 infection, symptoms appear anywhere from two days to two weeks later. The first signs of HSV-2 infection are often followed-within seven days-by the presence of painful lesions which can last up to ten days but often disappear within two weeks.
HSV is popularly recognized as an adult sexually transmitted disease but HSV-1 is common in young children and, as a consequence, fluid-filled blisters or areas of damaged tissue will appear on the upper body, particularly in or near the mouth. Such cold sores are contagious and, when present, signal that your child can pass infection on to others.
Children who suffer from fever blisters, cold sores or other symptoms of HSV-1 infection, should be kept home from school or day care settings to prevent transmitting the infection to other children.