Parents commonly tell us about worries they have about transmission and passing on genital herpes to their children in the course of daily life (we are not referring here to pregnancy and childbirth – that’s another topic - see Herpes in Pregnancy). Perhaps because there is so little information that addresses parents’ concerns about herpes transmission, parents end up devising all sorts of ‘safety strategies’ that are completely unnecessary.
The key message is – loving parents (this category includes grumpy, tired, in-need-of-a-break parents) do not pass on genital herpes to their children through the ‘normal’ intimacies of family life. It’s important that fear of transmission doesn’t get in the way of loving touch and shared experiences.
Snuggling in bed together is ‘safe’ – the herpes virus isn’t crawling on the sheets from one person to the next.
Sharing a bath or shower together isn’t a way the herpes virus is passed on – the same is true for spa baths and swimming pools.
Washing clothes in the same washing machine, even when a person has a herpes recurrence, will not pass on the virus.
A child brushing against an adult’s upper thighs or abdomen while the adult has a recurrence won’t pass on the virus.
If an adult uses the toilet or has touched the genital area and forgotten to wash their hands, this omission is not problematic in terms of herpes transmission. The herpes virus is fragile and dies when it leaves living cells.
Washing with ordinary soap and water is clean enough – there’s no need to use any special hand or toilet seat sanitisers.
Children do all sorts of odd things that you can’t anticipate, but even if they put your worn knickers on their head they are not going to contract the herpes virus – relax and laugh with them.
We hope this information will reassure parents (nieces, nephews, grandkids, stepkids etc) and help you to enjoy your children.
If you would like to get a print copy of the information booklets, fill out the form on the consumer request for printed materials page (it contains sections on Genital Herpes - The Facts, Herpes and Relationships, Herpes and Pregnancy, Facial Herpes).
The Guidelines are a consensus opinion of the STIEF Professional Advisory Group (PAG). The PAG has representation from nationwide medical, nursing and allied disciplines involved in the management of STIs. The Guidelines are produced by considering available literature, both New Zealand wide and international, and by basing the medical recommendations on the evidence in the literature or reasonable supposition and opinions of medical experts.