Why You Should Avoid Kissing Babies: Understanding the Risks and Precautions

The sight of a newborn baby often elicits warm feelings and an irresistible urge to shower them with affection. However, while kissing babies might seem like a harmless and loving gesture, it can pose significant health risks to the infant. Below you’ll find all the reasons why you should avoid kissing babies, focusing on the potential dangers, the science behind these risks, and best practices for safeguarding an infant’s health.

Kissing Babies: The Vulnerability of Newborns

Immature Immune Systems

Newborns have immature immune systems, making them particularly susceptible to infections. Their bodies are still developing the necessary defenses to fight off germs and viruses, which means they can easily contract illnesses that might be mild or insignificant in adults.

Delicate Skin and Mucous Membranes

A baby’s skin and mucous membranes are extremely delicate. The skin acts as a primary barrier against infections, but in infants, this barrier is not fully developed. This makes it easier for pathogens to enter their system through skin contact or mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, and eyes.

The Risks of Kissing Babies

Transmission of Viral Infections

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)

One of the most significant risks associated with kissing babies is the transmission of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV can cause cold sores in adults, but in infants, it can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening complications. Neonatal herpes can affect the skin, eyes, and mouth, and in severe cases, it can cause encephalitis (brain infection) and other systemic infections.

Case Study: Neonatal Herpes
A tragic case in 2017 involved a newborn baby contracting HSV-1 from a kiss, leading to meningitis. Despite medical intervention, the infant succumbed to the infection. This case underscores the critical need to avoid kissing babies, especially for individuals with active cold sores.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV is another common virus that can be transmitted through close contact, including kissing. While RSV typically causes mild cold-like symptoms in older children and adults, it can lead to severe respiratory infections in infants, such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

Bacterial Infections

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Group B Streptococcus is a type of bacteria that can cause serious infections in newborns. While GBS is commonly found in the intestines and lower genital tract of healthy adults, it can be transmitted to infants through close contact. In babies, GBS can cause sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, which are potentially life-threatening conditions.

Streptococcus pneumoniae

Streptococcus pneumoniae can cause various infections, including pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. Adults and older children might carry these bacteria in their noses and throats without being sick, but they can easily transmit them to infants through kissing or close contact.

Fungal Infections


Candida is a type of yeast that can cause infections in humans. While Candida infections are typically mild, they can be severe in infants due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Oral thrush, a common Candida infection in babies, can be painful and challenging to treat.

Allergic Reactions

Some infants have sensitive skin that can react adversely to substances on an adult’s lips, such as cosmetics, lip balm, or even food particles. These reactions can cause rashes, irritation, or more severe allergic responses.

Best Practices for Protecting Infants Other Than Not Kissing Babies

Good Hygiene Practices

Maintaining good hygiene is crucial in protecting infants from infections. Here are some essential practices:

  • Hand Washing: Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling a baby. This helps remove germs that can be easily transferred through touch.
  • Avoiding Face Contact: Refrain from touching a baby’s face, especially their mouth, eyes, and nose, as these are entry points for pathogens.
  • Limiting Visitors: Limit the number of visitors and close contacts during the first few months of a baby’s life, particularly during flu and cold seasons.

Avoiding Kissing Babies and Close Contact

To reduce the risk of transmitting infections to babies, it is advisable to:

  • Refrain from Kissing: Avoid kissing babies, particularly on their faces and hands. Instead, show affection through gentle touches and cuddles.
  • Educate Family and Friends: Inform family members and friends about the risks associated with kissing babies and encourage them to follow these precautions.

Health Checks for Visitors

Encourage visitors to ensure they are healthy before meeting a newborn. If someone is feeling unwell or has symptoms of an infection, they should postpone their visit.


Ensure that the baby’s immunizations are up to date. Vaccinations help protect infants from various serious illnesses and infections. Additionally, family members and caregivers should be up to date with their vaccinations, including the flu shot and the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine.

Monitoring and Early Intervention

Parents and caregivers should be vigilant for signs of illness in a newborn, such as fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, or unusual behavior. Early medical intervention can be crucial in preventing severe complications from infections.

Real-Life Stories and Expert Opinions

Expert Advice

Healthcare professionals universally recommend against kissing babies on their faces or hands due to the risk of transmitting infections. Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician, advises that even a seemingly healthy person can carry viruses and bacteria that are harmful to infants. She emphasizes the importance of educating parents and caregivers about these risks.

Personal Stories

Many parents have shared their experiences online about the dangers of kissing babies. One mother, Emily Bauer, recounted how her newborn contracted HSV-1 from a kiss, resulting in a prolonged hospital stay and intensive treatment. Stories like Emily’s highlight the real and present dangers of kissing infants and the severe consequences that can follow.

While it may be difficult to resist the urge to kiss a newborn, understanding the risks involved is crucial for their safety and well-being. Newborns have delicate immune systems and are particularly vulnerable to infections that might be benign in adults. By avoiding kissing babies and practicing good hygiene, we can help protect them from serious health complications.

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
ForEveryMom staff contributed to this article.

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