Hepatitis A is a virus that can infect the liver. In most cases, the infection goes away on its own and doesn't lead to long-term liver problems. In rare cases, it can be more serious.
The virus is found in stool. It spreads when a person eats food or drinks water that has come in contact with infected stool.
After your child is infected, symptoms may not start for up to 30 days. They may be so mild that you don't notice them. But your child can infect other people both before and after symptoms start. Most children who get the virus feel better within 2 to 3 months. Most don't have liver problems later. If your child was exposed to the virus in the past 2 weeks, your child may be given a shot. Ask your doctor if your child needs a hepatitis A vaccine or an immunoglobulin shot. These may prevent an infection.
Hepatitis A can cause tiredness, nausea, and diarrhea. Your child's skin and eyes may look yellow. This is called jaundice. Your child may vomit. This can lead to dehydration (severe loss of water). After having the virus, they can't get it again. But your child can still get other forms of hepatitis.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
How can you care for your child at home?
- Limit activity to match your child's energy.
- Make sure that the doctor knows all the medicines your child takes. Some medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can make liver problems worse. Do not give your child any new medicines unless the doctor says it's okay.
- Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed.
- If your child has nausea or vomiting, try smaller meals more often.
- Give your child plenty of fluids.
- If your child has itchy skin, be sure your child keeps cool, stays out of the sun, and wears cotton clothes. Talk to the doctor about medicines for itchy skin.
- Be sure your child washes hands with soap and clean, running water right after using the toilet and before eating.
- If your child is still in diapers, wash your hands well after every diaper change.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
- Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
- Your child is suddenly confused and cannot think clearly.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child is dizzy or lightheaded, or you think your child may faint.
- Your child has signs of needing more fluids. These signs include sunken eyes with few tears, a dry mouth with little or no spit, and little or no urine for 6 hours.
- Your child has nausea and vomiting that does not go away.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
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