An Ilkeston dad-to-be went into hospital for the birth of his first child – and ended up with an horrific rash covering his entire head and shoulders.
Tom Greenhalgh was banned from seeing his son Austin for two weeks because the rare condition could have killed the newborn baby.
His upper body and head were completely covered in painful, weeping sores after he picked up a severe form of the herpes virus.
Tom, 27, thinks he became infected by nervously scratching himself as wife Kerry – already two weeks overdue – went into labour.
Tom, who already had sensitive skin and eczema, was told he probably contracted the virus from something like a door handle and transferred it to a raw patch on his body.
He felt fine as little Austin arrived at Nottingham City Hospital and went home to get some sleep.
But a few hours later he woke up to find his neck was inflamed and painful and the rash quickly spread to his chest and face to his hairline.
Tom tried treating the outbreak with some of his normal eczema cream but sores started to quickly develop with a weeping clear fluid.
He covered the sores in bandaging but there was still no improvement so he went to the doctor the next day – just 24 hours after leaving the maternity unit.
The GP was so shocked he first thought he was facing a burns victim before prescribing some extra-strong cream which had little effect.
Two days later Tom, by now in unbearable pain, took himself to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.
He was immediately put on a drip and referred to the hospital’s dermatology specialists who diagnosed the rash as eczema herpeticum (corr).
They gave Tom antibiotics and anti-virals and a cream he had to put in his eyes to protect them as the rash can cause blindness.
They discharged him the same day - but told him the rash was so contagious he would not be allowed near his baby son for at least two weeks.
Tom said: “It was a nightmare. The rash was so contagious I couldn’t see Austin for two weeks.
“I’ve got no complaints about the hospitals - the staff were great and I just put it down to one of those things.
Tom spent a frustrating fortnight staying with his parents as Kerry, 24, and Austin went home.
Just a week after his birth last December little Austin alarmingly started to show signs of the same rash.
Kerry immediately spotted the danger and rushed him into A&E at the Royal Derby Hospital.
Doctors successfully prescribed the same treatment as Tom and the rash quickly disappeared before it had chance to fully develop.
Tom meanwhile was forced to take six weeks off from his work at a plumbers’ merchants as he waited for the scabs to go.
It was then another four months before the unsightly scars that had covered his upper body and head finally cleared.
Tom added: “I’ve got sensitive skin and eczema and then because of the stress of the labour I started scratching myself.
“I was told it would have been easy to pick up the virus from something like a door handle if someone who’d got a cold sore had touched it.
“I saw Austin being born and then went home at 6am and when I woke up the rash had started.
“I couldn’t see him for another two weeks then or even go near him.
“I wasn’t banned from seeing Kerry at the same time, but she wasn’t going to go anywhere without Austin so I didn’t see her for two weeks too.
“She kept in touch with texts and picture messages, but it wasn’t the same as being there.
“It was such a relief when I was finally allowed to go home and see him and hold him.”
Eczema herpeticum is a rare but severe infection that generally occurs at sites of skin damage.
It is most commonly caused by Herpes simplex, the virus that causes cold sores, and can be life-threatening in babies.
It normally affects people with atopic eczema – the most common form of eczema – who instead of getting cold sores, develop it for unknown reasons.