Hepatitis A: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Hepatitis A is a virus that can infect the liver. Most people who get it get better within 2 months and do not have liver problems later.

This virus is found in stool (feces). You can get it if you eat food or drink water that was in contact with infected stool. You can also get it from close contact with an infected person.

Common symptoms include feeling tired or having yellow eyes and skin (jaundice). They also include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and a severe loss of water (dehydration).

Some people don't notice any symptoms for up to 30 days. But even without symptoms, you still can give the infection to other people. Be sure to read the tips below to learn how to avoid spreading the virus.

Some people get a shot if they know they were exposed to the virus in the past 2 weeks. This shot may prevent getting infected with hepatitis A.

After you get hepatitis A one time, you can't get it again. But you can still get other types of hepatitis.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Reduce your activity level to match your energy level.
  • Avoid alcohol for 2 to 3 months. It can make liver problems worse.
  • Make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you take. Some medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can make liver problems worse. Do not take any new medicines unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If you have nausea or vomiting, try to eat smaller meals and eat more often.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • If you have itchy skin, it can help to keep cool and avoid the sun. It may also help to wear cotton clothes. You can also talk to your doctor about using over-the-counter medicines for itching. These include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin), to control the itching. Read and follow the instructions on the label.

To avoid spreading hepatitis A

  • Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water right after you use the toilet and before you prepare food.
  • Tell those you live with or have had sex with that you have hepatitis A. They may need a shot to prevent infection.
  • Don't have sexual contact with anyone while you're infected.
  • Tell anyone who may come in contact with your blood or stools about your illness. This includes your doctor, dentist, and other health care professionals.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You are suddenly confused and cannot think clearly.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.
  • You have nausea and vomiting that does not go away.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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