Kissing diseases can be a nightmare for babies who are unable to communicate with their mothers or have difficulties with social interaction.
They can cause severe facial, oral and other skin reactions, such as crying or foaming at the mouth, and babies who struggle to eat can develop irritability, which can lead to weight loss, developmental delays and, eventually, death.
According to the Mayo Clinic, infants are more susceptible to a kissing disease like kissers’ disease if they are born in the first trimester, or before their first birthday.
“It can be asymptomatic or asymphyzoid,” says Dr David Hickey, a paediatrician at the University of Sydney’s Child Development Centre.
“In asymptic infants, it may be quite mild, but asymphatic infants can develop serious infections or even death.”
Dr Hickey warns that infants in the early stages of life should be monitored closely, especially in relation to the risk of kissing disease.
“If you see an infant with a history of kissing or other symptoms, get a clinical assessment,” he says.
“Make sure that the baby has been exposed to a close family member, friend or carer and is not at risk of developing any kissing or swallowing issues.”
You might want to talk to them about any problems that may have developed in the past, and if you have any concerns about the infant’s development, see a paediatrist.
“Dr Peter Lomas, a child psychologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, says babies who develop kissing disease may experience “cognitive problems” and are less likely to learn.”
They may have difficulties understanding how to express themselves, may not learn to express emotions, may struggle to control their behaviour and may be at increased risk of depression, anxiety and behavioural problems,” he explains.”
This is not an issue that’s going to be fixed by being taught new language.
“When you’ve got a baby who’s been exposed in a very early age to kissing or kissing behaviours that may not be normal for them, it’s very important that you look at all the possible causes of these problems, because you don’t want to get stuck with a baby that doesn’t have the skills to develop into a successful baby.”
Dr Lomas advises parents to watch for signs of kissing in their babies’ behaviour and talk to their baby’s doctors about any other problems.
“The most important thing is to be able to recognise these early signs, and to try and work with the parents and see if you can change those behaviours and get the baby to stop kissing,” he adds.
Dr Higgs says parents need to monitor their baby closely during pregnancy, as kissing is the most common cause of infant death.
“I don’t think parents should be scared to talk about the problems they have, because there are so many different reasons why these problems occur,” she says.
“If the baby is in the same situation as the mother, then it’s not the same thing, so you can’t expect them to get it all.”
And the mother needs to know that she’s not alone in these issues.
She needs to be involved, because she needs to do everything that she can to make sure that her baby doesn’t develop into this behaviour, or that he doesn’t.
“Topics:child-health,natal-diseases-and-disorders,social-behaviour,children,psychiatry-and/or-clinical-science,sydney-2000,australiaContact Michelle SmithMore stories from Western Australia