Should I Be Concerned About Sharing Lip Balm and Spreading Cold Viruses?

Updated on February 18, 2010
I.N. asks from Astoria, NY
15 answers

I suppose this question stems from my own ignorance about what cold sores are and how they spread.

I recently saw my mother-in-law shared her lip balm with my daughter and am concerned because she gets cold sore outbreaks every few months. I haven't said anything to her about my discomfort with sharing lip balm 1) because I don't know if that is really how cold sores are spread and 2) wanted my husband to initiate the conversation.

My daughter who is 2 loves hand-cream, lip balm, body lotion and anything that smells good. She is cared for by her grandmother two days a week and they simply adore each other so I want to be careful about how I navigate this without exposing my daughter to a life-long health issue. Any advice on how to navigate this is welcomed.

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So What Happened?

I will pick up some lip balm for my daughter to use exclusively. She is going to love the idea of having her own and you are all right. The same rules apply to everyone - no sharing lip stuff. The consistency will alleviate any gray areas.

Thank you for the feedback.

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answers from Rochester on

My sister-in-law likes to kiss my kids on the mouth. I HATE that. I love to kiss my kids, but not on the mouth. I made up an excuse that if they do it once they they want to do it with other kids that they meet. (my child actualy did kiss a little girl on the lips). Could you lie and make up a story that she saw a kid with lip balm and was trying to use the kids lib balm???? Just a sugestion. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

Buy what you want your daughter to use and give one to your MIL with your daughters name on it. Tell her you want her to use her own and this is one especially for her to keep for your daughter. Before you do this you may want to Call the nurse at the pediatricians office and ask her. She will tell you yes, you can spread cold sores. Then you can tell you MIL that the doctor told you your daughter should not share. Be sure to tell your MIL how much you appreciate her and you hope she understands. Most MIL's listen to doctors, and it will be off of you.

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answers from Washington DC on

Each family member should have their own lip balm. We write our names on them. Also, they should be replaced after being used during a cold or strep outbreak.

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answers from St. Louis on

Cold sores are the manifestation of HERPES, pure and simple. Herpes is contagious, and sharing lip balm, toothbrushes, etc...are a sure way to spread HERPES (among several others), in my opinion this should be addressed in an honest way. You may want to say to your MIL what HERPES actually is (a virus that once is transmitted stay in your organism lifetime and it causes very uncomfortable symptoms) , and I am sure that she won't her granddaughter having this problem, especially a little one. Just let her know in a nice way what it is and that you would greatly appreciate she does not share with your daughter anything that contributes to spread the virus (cold sores are very painful, and when they disappear, the virus is always there,dormant)
It is better for you to be more concerned with your little one health than your MIL's reaction. I am sure she will understand, just be nice when you talk to her.
Good luck

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answers from Dallas on

yes, if your mil gets cold sores(herpes type 1), she could very well pass it to your daughter by doing that. i would say something or have your husband say something IMMEDIATELY. even beyond the cold sore issue, that's just nasty, but i'm one that doesn't even share drinks lol!

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answers from Honolulu on

Yes be concerned.
These are personal items, that are used on the mouth.
Better to be safe than sorry.

Explain to your MIL. Nicely.
Or, explain that PER your Pediatrician, that is what he/she advises.

And sure, tell your Husband. I'm sure, he'd be concerned about the health of his little girl too. Common sense.
It is either not telling your MIL for fear of her, or suppose your daughter gets canker sores/cold sores or whatever it is, on HER mouth.
AND, if your MIL gets cold-sore outbreaks every few months... maybe she should get it diagnosed. Properly. Maybe it is not just a "cold-sore" but something else? Who knows, right? So until then, don't share mouth products. Period.

And when/if your daughter is able to understand, you teach her about hygiene and about sharing personal products. Because it can spread germs. Even sharing Hair-Brushes... can spread head lice. Which kids in school, learn about.

All the best,



answers from Rochester on

I have 5 children (well, had......they are all grown up now). Only one ever got cold sores. The doctor once told me cold sores are caused by a virus that is in everyone's body. For some medically unknown reason most people develop immunity to this virus. Those that do not, get cold sores.

As for them being contagious. I don't know. I do know that when my girls were little no matter how much I protested and told then not to, they all shared lip balm, lipsticks, etc. They even shared toothbrushes (yuk). And still, only one gets cold sores.

This is not to say I think your MIL should share lip balm with your daughter. I would suggest you go to the $ store and get your daughter her own lib balm. And tell her it is her own personal tube and she should never share it with anyone, not even grandma. And have a talk with your MIL, she may not even realize what she is doing could be harmful to your daughter. After all, you didn't know if it was dangerous either.



answers from New York on

Lip balm simply shouldn't be shared. Grandma isn't different from a stranger in that regard, everyone has germs. You shouldn't share yours with her either - and if you don't do that, then grandma shouldn't either. Really it's just a matter of common sense. Buy your daughter her own lip balm that she can take to Grandma's with her and make sure that as young as your daughter is, that she knows it's not okay to share things that go on or in your mouth



answers from Topeka on

I hate when things are shared that is gross(my opinion). I have taught my kids not to drink from others or use personal belongings such as lip balm drinks food etc.I would buy your daughter her own smell goods put them in a lil purse & send them with grandma when she goes over there you don't need to bring up the subject of her cold sores because this will get her attention.I have done this or I have also gave back the chapstick that was handed to my kids to use & simply say we don't share.My girls are 3 & almost 1 yr.& I already have a collection of purses for them to use with their own items it is fun for them as a girly girl.



answers from Boston on

I like the suggestion of buying them their own. You can buy each of them the same flavored kind. I would suggest to your MIL that your daughter might have a cold and for her not to share as she doesnt want to spread germs . I would also mention that the Dr. suggested that your daughter use her own. but make sure you say this nicely, Maybe even adding some lotion to the pack. Its so nice they adore each other.



answers from St. Cloud on

YIKES!!!! Absolutely tell MIL not to share lip balm! Cold sores can be spread that way.
I would hope that your mother in law would be gracious about this. I am kind of shocked that she hasn't thought of it already.
No matter what, it has to be dealt with, your MIL sounds really sweet but her feelings don't matter as much as your daughter's health and well being.



answers from New York on

The nurse in my pediatrician's office told the children very young what's ok to share and what's not. Regardless of the cold sore issue, no one should share 'lip stuff' (as my daughter, now 7 called it.) Explaining this made it simpler and alleviated the issue of hurting people's feelings. My daughter and her friends share body lotion & hand creams, which they all bring to school ... but know to not share 'lip stuff' because 'the nurse said we could get sick.' I've used this explanation to adults & teens saying that we don't want to confuse my daughter, or have her do something opposite what the nurse said. So far so good in our world, hope it works in yours.



answers from New York on

Hi, i'm a dental Hygienist and you're right.....lip balm can definitely spread cold sores. It's hard to know when an outbreak is coming and there's definitely a gray area where sometimes people know that the cold sore is coming and get tingling but most don't know when. Obviously then the best idea is have your daughter stay away from sharing. Maybe you can just say that a friend of yours had this happen to her by sharing?? It seems pretty innocent. Good luck.



answers from New York on

Yes it can spread from lip balm or kissing. My husband is a pharmaceutical rep and sells a drug for cold sores, so I am pretty informed on this topic. Cold sores are a form (and very common form) of herpes. Therefore, when your mother in-law is having an outbreak (cold sore) kissing or sharing of lip balm puts your daughter at risk for getting cold sores as well. Which, there is no cure for. So as touchy of a topic it may be, I would definitely have your husband mention it to her. Good luck!



answers from New York on

NO SHARING of things like that IMO. I simply say all the time to anyone who tries to share things with my child (even when he tries to drink from mine or my husbands bottles, etc) that sharing of toys and things are good, but we don't want to share anything that touches our mouth, eyes, nose, etc b/c thats how germs get spread and we get sick. My 2.5 yr old understands this and my in-laws who seemed to have no problem sharing ANYTHING understood it too. YES, I think you can get colds from sharing things like that and cold sores - definitley! So just tell your MIL that you are trying to teach your child boundries and suggest she buy your daughter her own - like my MIL did. Granted, the lip balm gets broken quickly or my son puts a ton on (chapstick) but its cheap and worth avoiding the spread of germs.

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