A 22-year-old first-time mom got the shock of a lifetime when her daughter started screaming inexplicably after she put her in the bath this past December.
Brogan Thomas, who lives in Staindrop, England, recalls to PEOPLE that her daughter, 1-year-old Kaylah Merritt, was getting “really tired and wasn’t herself” one day, but they pressed on with their normal routine. Bath time came around, and Thomas stripped off her baby’s clothes. Then she saw “all the marks on her.”
They were purple and red, she tells PEOPLE, adding, “it looked like she’d been in a fire.”
The mother immediately rushed her to the local emergency room, where doctors told her that Kaylah was suffering from herpes, likely because someone with a cold sore on his or her mouth had kissed the infant on the lips. Thomas doesn’t know when the kiss happened or who it was from.
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The doctors added that because babies’ immune systems aren’t strong enough to fight off the virus, Kaylah could’ve died if her condition had gone untreated much longer, Thomas recalls.
Kaylah was hospitalized for four days, and even after she went home, doctors would come to her home daily to keep giving the baby injections. Thomas also must take her daughter to the hospital weekly for more tests and treatment. And in May, Thomas says, Kaylah will have her brain scanned to check for any brain damage as a result of the herpes.
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A month has passed since Thomas first discovered the symptoms, and Kaylah is “still very uncomfortable, not sleeping as well as she normally does and really clingy to both me and her dad,” the mother says. She adds that the purple and red marks are still visible, and it’s unclear when they will go away entirely because Kaylah will have herpes for the rest of her life.
Thomas tells PEOPLE that her daughter’s condition has been incredibly “stressful” for her, causing her to be put on antidepressants. But, she adds, “as long she’s okay, I’m okay.”
The mom is so eager to raise awareness about neonatal herpes that she shared Kaylah’s experience via Facebook. The post from Jan. 15 has since received more than 32,000 shares and 3,000 comments.
“So I’ve just seen a post about how parents go over the top about people kissing the child on the lips and that it’s perfectly fine? Well I can tell you now that’s not the case,” Thomas wrote. “We [were] very lucky we caught it when we did!”
For parents of newborns who may be concerned about this condition, Thomas recommends looking for a rash around the lips, a fever, and purple and red marks on the skin. According to England’s National Health Services, parents should also be wary of lethargy, baby becoming “floppy and unresponsive,” breathing difficulties and a blue tongue.
For anyone who regularly spends time with infants and toddlers, Thomas says to never “kiss a child on the lips. Even if you don’t have a cold sore you can still be a carrier without any symptoms.”
NHS also recommends that anyone with herpes or a cold sore wash their hands and cover up any sores before contact with a baby.
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