Ashleigh White, of Wombwell, noticed her son Noah had a swollen, blistered, red eye which was constantly watering when he was just four-weeks-old.
After his eye became more swollen and blisters appeared, Ashleigh, 21, and her partner Jake Tindle, 28, rushed Noah to the doctor and were told he had the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). HSV-1 is highly contagious and is spread via cold sores or genital ulcers in adults. The virus can remain in saliva even if the sore is no longer active and it can kill babies if it spreads to their organs.
Noah - who is now nearly ten-months-old ended up spending two and a half months in hospital after the virus nearly left him blind. And now first-time mum Ashleigh wants to raise awareness of how easily spread the herpes simplex virus is.
“I had seen a post online before about neonatal herpes but as Noah was well at the time I didn’t think anything of it.”
Ashleigh said it was still not known how he can contracted the virus. It is easily passed on unknowingly through kisses and other contact. When Noah first arrived home from hospital after being born he received many visitors, but Ashleigh believes it could have been picked up at a Christening the family attended.
“We went to a friend’s Christening and afterwards his eye started getting red and had crust round it, it was watering a lot.
“A few days after that he got some red marks around his eye and they turned into blisters so we took him to the doctors as I remembered seeing that post.
“The doctors referred us to Barnsley Hospital and they took him straight into the children’s ward and tested him for everything. Then 48 hours later the tests for HSV-1 came back positive and he was referred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”
As first-time parents, Ashleigh said it was a very difficult time for both her and Jake as they felt ‘helpless’ leaving Noah after visiting hours in the hospital.
“He was having all these creams and having to have regular injections,” said Ashleigh. “The nurses would have to wake him up every two or three hours as well to give him his medicine so he didn’t sleep well either.
“It put a massive strain on me and Jake as well as Jake had to go away and work so he couldn’t always be with us.”
Noah recovered and was brought home but contracted the virus again in March of this year, which meant he had to have his medication upped. He also had two operations to tackle the virus.
Now, Noah is a healthy baby and is about to turn ten-months-old, but is on anti viral medication until 2020. He also has regular check-ups with ophthalmologists and with his doctors.
Ashleigh wants other mums to be aware of neonatal herpes, as not all symptoms of the virus can appear.
“Noah never showed with some of the symptoms such as a high temperature and he was still having wet nappies and eating and sleeping as he should; it was just his eye going red and crusty,” she said.
“It could come back, there is a chance that it can but he may have to be on his medication for a long time. Looking back, it was a really horrible time for us as we didn’t know who to turn to. People need to know about the virus and they need to know about hygiene around newborns and babies.”