Herpes is a skin condition that is characterized by inflammations and blisters that slowly spread in small clusters. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus, the same virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes.
Herpes is known to come in 80 various forms of viruses. Out of this number, 8 can actually cause diseases in people and out of these 8 kinds of viruses, the ones that commonly infect humans are herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, or HSV1 and HSV2.
It is difficult to differentiate HSV1 and HSV2 when seen through the microscope. Both types can actually cause infections in the mouth or genitals of a person. Perhaps the main distinguishing characteristic of these viruses is that HSV1 infects body parts located above the waist while HSV2 reveals itself below the waist. Also, HSV2 is the common source of herpes infection among infants. The differences between the two kinds of herpes viruses are not otherwise distinguishable, as they both cause blisters that are highly contagious through skin contact.
Herpes infection may affect the mouth in the form of cold sores (oral herpes) and the genitals in the form of blisters and lesions (genital herpes).
The phases that the herpes virus goes through as a dynamic disease cover a period of 2 to 21 days, during which time the disease manifests itself through infectious blisters. After this period, the virus goes dormant and the skin eruptions vanish. Following this time, the virus may become inactive for a long time and may or may not recur depending on triggering factors that may contribute to its recurrence.
To recognize herpes in children, the general indications are illness with flu symptoms and ulcers surrounding the mouth. These ulcers are lesion-like skin eruptions that contain infectious substances that are transmissible through skin contact.
Herpes in children usually disappears along with the accompanying fever after a few days of treatment. However, these may easily recur, especially when the child is suffering from cold sores or is running a fever or exposed under the sun for a long period of time.
Herpes may also affect other parts of the body aside from the mouth. Blisters in the hand, particularly along the fingers, are called herpetic whitlows and may be aggravated by widespread rashes known as eczema herpeticum if the person is also suffering from a skin problem called dermatitis.
Although common cold sores, which are the primary signs of herpes, are not very serious, there should still be concern about the possible complications when a child has AIDS, in which case the infection will further weaken the immune system and may result in death.
Infants may contract the virus through the mother during normal delivery (through the vagina). If the mother's herpes condition is not checked before delivery, the infant will most likely get the disease upon his birth while he passes through the vaginal canal of the mother. Infants infected with herpes simplex manifest eye, skin and mouth infections, and rarely, infection of the brain otherwise known as neonatal meningitis.