Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 7: Infectious Diseases

7.7 Herpes Viruses

7.7.2 Herpes Simplex Disease Recognition and Control of Herpes Simplex Virus

Children with herpetic gingivostomatitis, an infection of the mouth caused by the herpes simplex virus, who do not have control of oral secretions, should be excluded from child care. In selected situations, children with mild disease who are in control of their oral secretions may not need to be excluded. The facility’s child care health consultant or health department officials should be consulted.

Caregivers/teachers with herpetic gingivostomatitis, cold sores, or herpes labialis should do the following:

  1. Refrain from kissing and nuzzling children;
  2. Refrain from sharing food and drinks with children and other caregivers;
  3. Avoid touching the lesions;
  4. Wash their hands frequently;
  5. Cover any skin lesion with a bandage, clothing, or an appropriate dressing if practical.

Caregivers/teachers should be instructed in the importance of and technique for hand hygiene and other measures aimed at limiting transfer of infected material, such as saliva, tissue fluid, or fluid from a skin sore.

Caregivers/teachers who work in a child care program with young infants should avoid caring for infants including neonates when the caregiver has an active “fever blister” on their lips.

Initial herpes simplex virus disease in children often produces a sudden illness of short duration characterized by fever and sores around and within the mouth. Illness and viral excretion may persist for a week or more. Multiple, painful sores in the mouth and throat may prevent oral intake and necessitate hospitalization for hydration (1). Recurrent oral herpes is manifested as small, fluid-filled blisters on the lips and entails a much shorter period of virus shedding from sores. Adults and children also can shed the virus in oral secretions in the absence of identifiable sores.

Although the risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus in the child care setting has not been documented, spread of infection within families has been reported and is thought to require direct contact with infected secretions (1). Transmission of herpes simplex in child care is uncommon (2). However, neonates are at the highest risk for disseminated disease.

For additional information regarding herpes simplex, consult the herpes simplex chapter in the current edition of the Red Book from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Type of Diapers Worn Handling Cloth Diapers Diaper Changing Procedure Procedure for Changing Children’s Soiled Underwear, Disposable Training Pants and Clothing Situations that Require Hand Hygiene Handwashing Procedure Assisting Children with Hand Hygiene Training and Monitoring for Hand Hygiene Hand Sanitizers Procedure for Nasal Secretions and Use of Nasal Bulb Syringes Cough and Sneeze Etiquette Cuts and Scrapes Prevention of Exposure to Blood and Body Fluids Inclusion/Exclusion/Dismissal of Ill Children Staff Exclusion for Illness Guidelines for Taking Children’s Temperatures Infectious Disease Outbreak Control
  1. Prober, C. G. 2008. Herpes simplex virus. In Principles and practice of pediatric infectious diseases, eds. S. S. Long, L. K. Pickering, C. G. Prober. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone.
  2. Schmitt, D. L., D. W. Johnson, F. W. Henderson. 1991. Herpes simplex type I infections in group care. Pediatr Infect Dis J 10:729-34.