The dangers of people kissing your newborn

Tiny newborn cheeks and hands are incredibly hard to resist kissing, but doing so can have serious health consequences and even be fatal.

A newborn baby’s immune system is underdeveloped, and whilst they’re not fully immunised, it makes them highly vulnerable to severe infections. Kissing a baby can spread germs that lead to illness, so it’s highly recommended that no one kisses a newborn (and that includes their parents, sorry).

Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of people kissing your newborn, and precautions you can take to protect your little one.

The dangers of people kissing your newborn

The newborn period is not a time to build their immunity. It’s a time to protect them from illness. Even if you or someone else is showing no symptoms, here are some of the issues that kissing a baby can cause:

  • RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). The virus is very common and symptoms can be mild and cold-like in older children and adults, but for infants it can be a serious and potentially fatal condition. It can be passed on through physical contact or infected droplets via a sneeze or cough.
  • HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus). This is the virus that causes cold sores, and can cause viral meningitis in infants which is fatal. A person may have a cold sore around their lips or just starting to get one, which means there is a high risk of transmitting the virus through a kiss.
  • HFMD (Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease). A common virus among children that usually includes fever, mouth sores, ulcers, and skin rash around the mouth, hands, feet, and legs. It spreads through physical contact, or infected droplets via a sneeze or cough. Whilst not fatal, it can cause problems in infants with weak immune systems.
  • Influenza. The flu is easily passed on through close contact and coughing/sneezing, which can cause serious complications in babies.
  • Whooping cough. Immunity to whooping cough doesn’t happen until your baby’s third dose of the vaccine at 6 months of age, so until then, it is highly contagious, very risky, and even fatal to infants.
  • COVID-19. A highly contagious virus that often causes respiratory symptoms. We still have a lot to learn about its impact on newborns, but most experience mild to no symptoms of COVID-19, while some have developed more serious symptoms.
  • Allergic reactions. A kiss from a person with food particles around their mouth could cause a food allergic reaction in babies, plus some skincare ingredients could expose your baby to harmful chemicals leading to skin irritation.

Precautions to protect your baby from illness 

  1. Avoid taking your newborn into crowded spaces, and socially distance where possible.
  2. Avoid having too many visitors in the early months of life.
  3. Avoid close contact between other children and your infant.
  4. Ensure any visitors are immunised and healthy.
  5. Maintain good overall hygiene, and insist that anyone who holds your baby washes their hands.
  6. Watch for symptoms – read our Red flags to look out for when baby is sick.
  7. Ensure that bub’s immunisations are up-to-date.
  8. Don’t worry too much – just use your common sense in minimising exposure to potential health risks.
  9. Advocate for your baby. It’s better to offend someone than to risk your child’s life.
  10. Trust your instincts. See your GP if you’re ever concerned about your baby’s health.