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Can You Breastfeed If You Have Herpes

Q: Why Do I Get Cold Sores When I Go To The Beach Or To The Snow

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A: Sun exposure is the most common trigger in people who get recurrent cold sores. UV radiation from the sun suppresses the immune system and this allows the cold sore virus to reactivate.

UV radiation is extremely high at the beach and also at the snow .

Make sure you wear plenty of sun protection, including lip balm and sunscreen with a very high SPF to protect yourself from both sunburn and cold sores.

How Is Herpes Meningoencephalitis Diagnosed

If, after reviewing your medical history and symptoms, your healthcare provider thinks you may have herpes meningoencephalitis, he or she will order various tests and exams to confirm the diagnosis. Other tests may include:

  • Neurological exam. Your provider will do a neurological exam to look for changes in motor and sensory function, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and in mood or behavior.

  • Lumbar puncture. In this procedure, your provider will take a sample of spinal fluid. Cells and other substances in this fluid may give your provider important clues.

  • Imaging. Your provider may want to create images of your brain using a CT or MRI scan.

  • EEG. An EEG measures brain waves by placing electrodes onto your scalp.

  • Blood tests. Testing the blood helps identify infection.

If your healthcare providers think that a newborn has herpes encephalitis resulting from infection with HSV2 while passing through the birth canal, they may check samples of the babys blood and spinal fluid.

In this article, we have highlighted few details about potential viruses that affect the nervous system and cause nerve pains:

Low Breast Milk Supply

A lot of parents worry that they may not be producing enough milk for their baby, but in reality, only a small percentage of people who want to breastfeed can’t due to a true low breast milk supply. A true low milk supply is rare, and it is usually the result of an underlying condition. With treatment, some issues can be corrected but some problems cannot be resolved. The causes of a true low milk supply include:

  • Previous breast surgery, such as mastectomy or a breast reduction surgery
  • Prior radiation treatment for breast cancer

If you have a true low milk supply, you may not be able to breastfeed exclusively. However, supplementing with infant formula or donor milk is nothing to be ashamed of. You are simply helping your baby meet their nutrition needswhich is exactly what a good parent does.

Plus, breastfeeding provides more than just nutrition, so you can still put your baby to your breast and allow your infant to nurse for comfort and security. Even if they are only getting a small amount of breast milk, it’s still good for themand it allows you to bond.

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Is Herpes Passed On Through Breast Milk

The risk of catching herpes from breast milk is very low. Authors Wambach & Spencer state it is doubtful that HSV infection can be transmitted via human milk. Transmission during lactation is more likely to occur with direct contact with an active lesion or blister.12

The following paper also states the risk of viral transmission via breast milk is very low and that breastfeeding ought not be interrupted unless the sores are on the breasts:

Excerpt From

Recommendations for breastfeeding during maternal infections J Pediatr , Lamounier et al, 2004

The risk of viral transmission via breast milk is very low. In nursing mothers with herpes, breastfeeding should not be interrupted, except when the herpetic vesicles are located on the breasts. Active lesions in other body parts should be covered, and the nursing mothers hygiene should not be overlooked so that breastfeeding can be maintained.

What To Do If Your Baby Gets Herpes

Hsv 1 Baby Rash / Herpes And Breastfeeding Breastfeeding Support

The HSV-1 virus is relatively harmless- albeit frustrating and pesky- for adults, but it can be extremely dangerous in newborn babies. This is why its critical to act quickly if you suspect your baby is infected with herpes. The main symptom of a neonatal herpes simplex virus infection is a rash of blisters on your babys body. This rash may be accompanied by a high fever, unusual irritability, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Even the smallest sign of a localized herpes infection must be controlled to prevent widespread infection into the central nervous system and brain:

  • -Diagnosis of a sample taken from blisters
  • -Antiviral medication treatment such as acyclovir
  • -Supplemental fluids or breathing support as needed

As long as the herpes infection is caught and treated early, while it still only affects your babys skin, she should be able to make a full recovery and lead a normal, healthy life.

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What Is Neonatal Herpes

Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.

Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.

The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.

How Do Stis Affect Pregnant Women

STIs can cause many of the same health problems in pregnant women as in women who are not pregnant. But having an STI also can hurt the unborn babys health.

Having an STI during pregnancy can cause:

  • Premature labor . Early birth is the number one cause of infant death and can lead to long-term developmental and health problems in children.1
  • Infection in the uterus after birth

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Is It Safe To Breastfeed With Herpes

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Herpes is an infectious disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. It can either be manifested as cold sores in the mouth or as genital sores . Herpes is highly contagious and can be life-threatening to young infants. This is why breastfeeding mothers with herpes need to be extra careful while nursing and taking care of their infants. This article contains the information on herpes and breastfeeding.

Can you breastfeed with herpes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , mothers with herpes can continue breastfeeding as long as they follow the necessary precautions to avoid transmitting the virus to their baby. Herpes simplex virus is very contagious especially when the mother has active herpetic lesions.

Experts suggest that breastfeeding mothers should strictly adhere to these precautions to avoid transferring the virus to their infant. For breastfeeding moms with herpes, here are the important measures to be observed:

Cover your herpes lesions.

A mother with herpes must cover the lesions on her body before breastfeeding and handling her baby. These are the red, small, and painful sores that can be found in the genital area, mouth, or any other parts of the body of an infected person. If youre breastfeeding with herpes, you can use gauze pads to cover your lesions or any dressing that is approved by your doctor. This is to prevent your baby from directly touching the infectious lesions.

Do not breastfeed from the affected breast.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

Can STD’s be transmitted through nipples? – Dr. Shailaja N

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What is the best treatment for me?
  • What happens if I dont treat a cold sore?
  • What are the side effects of antiviral medications?
  • How can I reduce the risk of future outbreaks?
  • Whats the best way to prevent getting another STI?
  • How can I protect my partner from getting genital herpes?
  • Should I lookout for signs of complications?

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Prevention Of Hsv Infections

People with HSV infection should avoid activities and other things known to trigger recurrences. For example, people with oral HSV infection triggered by sunlight should avoid exposure to sunlight as much as possible or use sunscreen when sunlight cannot be avoided.

Because HSV infection is contagious, people with infection of the lips should avoid kissing as soon as they feel the first tingling until the sore has completely healed. They should not share a drinking glass and, if possible, should not touch their lips. They should also avoid oral sex.

at all times. Even when there are no visible blisters and no symptoms, the virus may be present on the genitals and can be spread to sex partners.

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What If I Have A Cold Sore While Breastfeeding

If you have cold sores, it is safe to breastfeed your baby as long as the cold sores are not on the breast or nipple.

If they are, it may be wise to breastfeed from the unaffected nipple only until the lesions have cleared up. You would express and dispose of breastmilk from the affected nipple. Breastmilk itself doesn’t contain the herpes virus but it can be contaminated through the skin lesions.

Talk to your doctor or midwife as soon as you notice any cold sores on your breast or nipple.

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Q: Why Do I Get Cold Sores But Other People Don’t

A: Cold sores are caused by a virus called herpes simplex virus . Even though about 90 per cent of adults have been infected with HSV at some time in their lives, not everyone gets cold sore outbreaks.

Doctors think the reason why some people have cold sores that tend to come back is due to a genetic mutation which affects the immune system, making them more prone to developing recurrent cold sores.

It is also known that being stressed, run-down or unwell can trigger cold sores in people infected with the virus.

How Does Herpes Simplex Spread

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Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.

People may get HSV-1 through

  • Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
  • Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
  • If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.

People may get HSV-2 through

  • Oral sex with someone whos infected.
  • Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
  • Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
  • Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.

You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.

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Is There A Cure For Herpes Simplex

There is no cure for herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, its a lifelong infection.

What is the outlook for people with herpes simplex?

For many people, the first herpes outbreak is the most severe. Many outbreaks are less frequent and milder after the first year of infection. Some people may have only one outbreak and never have another again.

Herpes infection doesnt usually pose a serious health risk. The risk of a health complication due to herpes is higher in infants and if you have HIV/AIDS, cancer or an organ transplant.

What Can I Do If I Have Herpes

Many people who find out they have herpes feel depressed knowing they will always have the virus and can give it to others. But you are not alone. Herpes is one of the most common STIs, both in the US and worldwide. Exact numbers of people affected are not known. This is because many people dont realize they have it, especially if symptoms are minor and are not bothersome. If you have herpes, you should:

  • Learn all you can about it. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself.
  • Talk about your illness with your doctor.

If you have herpes, you can still:

  • Have sex if you use a condom , and you tell your partner about your illness. Some couples, who have sexual relations only with each other, may choose not to use condoms even though one partner has herpes. Because each situation is different, you should talk to your doctor if this is a right choice for you in your relationship.
  • Have children. Women with herpes can still give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, discuss your illness with your health care provider.

If you have herpes, you should also get checked for HIV and other STIs .

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How Can You Manage Herpes In Pregnancy

Fortunately, herpes is rarely transmitted to a baby during pregnancy since most newborns with HSV get it when they pass through an infected birth canal. If the amniotic sac breaks before birth, very rarely the fluid in an infected birth canal can infect a baby who has not yet passed through it.

But because this infection can cause severe problems for your baby, including skin lesions, eye disease and brain damage, he will be treated with antiviral medications in the unlikely event hes exposed to herpes during birth. This treatment is given intravenously and he may need to stay on it for several weeks.

When you go into labor, your doctor should carefully examine you for herpetic lesions. If you arent experiencing sores or symptoms at delivery time, a vaginal birth may be possible.

If, however, you have sores or early symptoms of a herpes outbreak , a cesarean delivery may be recommended to reduce the chance the baby will come in contact with the virus.

Spinal Cord Or Peripheral Nerve Stimulation

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These devices offer a safe, efficient, and effective way to relieve many types of neuropathic pain conditions. Similar to TENS, they are implanted under the skin along the course of peripheral nerves. Before implantation, doctors do a trial run using a thin wire electrode to determine patient response.

The spinal cord stimulator is inserted through the skin into the epidural space over the spinal cord. The peripheral nerve stimulator is placed under the skin above a peripheral nerve. As soon as the electrodes are in place, they are switched on to administer a weak electrical current to the nerve.

Experts believe that by stimulating the non-painful sensory pathway, the electrical impulses trick the brain into turning off or turning down the painful signals, resulting in pain relief.

Symptoms are usually limited to the area of skin where the shingles outbreak first occurred and may include:

  • occasional sharp burning, shooting, jabbing pain
  • constant burning, throbbing, or aching pain
  • extreme sensitivity to touch

In rare cases, if the nerve also controls muscle movement, there may be muscle weakness or paralysis.

Symptoms may make it hard to carry out some daily activities, such as bathing or dressing. PHN may also cause fatigue and sleeping difficulties.

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The Safety Of Breastfeeding With Herpes

If a woman has herpes on her body, but not her breast, breastfeeding is safe. The virus cannot pass through a woman’s body into her milk.

On the other hand, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if a woman has herpes sores on her breast, she should not breastfeed.

However, she can express or pump milk from that breast, as long as the parts of the breast pump that touch the milk do not come in contact with the herpes sores. If this occurs, the milk must be discarded.

How Is Hsv Treated During Pregnancy Or Breastfeeding

You can treat cold sores and genital herpes with:

  • aciclovir cream, available from a pharmacist without prescription
  • aciclovir or valaciclovir tablets, for which you need a prescription

These ‘antiviral’ drugs are known to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and are effective most of the time.

Famciclovir tablets are not recommended to take during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor if the cold sore is severe.

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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home

Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.

How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?

  • Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
  • Applying ice to blisters or sores.

How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?

  • Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
  • Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
  • Soak in a warm bath.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
  • Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.

Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster

Help! Is this herpes? Blister outbreak

Herpes simplex and the varicella-zoster virus are related, but they arent the same. VZV causes chickenpox and shingles.

Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.


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