Hepatitis: Care Instructions

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Location of the liver in the body

Your Care Instructions

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It is caused most often by a virus, heavy drinking over a long time, or certain medicines. When this condition is severe, the liver cannot remove waste from the body or do its other jobs.

  • The hepatitis A virus is spread by food or water that has the virus. This type of hepatitis does not lead to long-term liver problems.
  • The hepatitis B virus is spread through infected blood, semen, or other body fluids during sex or by sharing needles to inject drugs. Most people who have hepatitis B get better after 4 to 8 weeks. Once you have had hepatitis B, you will not get it again. If the virus stays in your body for a long time, it can cause serious liver damage.
  • The hepatitis C virus is spread by sharing needles to use drugs or sometimes through infected blood, semen, or other body fluids during sex. Most people who have hepatitis C have a long-term infection. Sometimes, it causes serious liver damage.
  • Hepatitis from alcohol use can lead to serious liver problems. If you stop drinking, your liver usually will get better.
  • Some medicines can cause hepatitis, including over-the-counter and herbal medicines. The hepatitis usually goes away when you stop taking the medicine, unless serious liver damage has already happened.
  • Hepatitis also can be caused by the immune system attacking the liver. This is called autoimmune hepatitis.

You can help your liver heal-or lower the chance of liver damage-by following your doctor's advice.

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?

  • If your doctor prescribes antiviral medicine, take it exactly as directed. Do not stop or change a medicine without talking to your doctor first.
  • Lower your activity to match your energy.
  • Avoid alcohol for as long as your doctor says. Alcohol can make liver problems worse. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counselling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help you stay sober.
  • Make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you take. Do not take any new medicines unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about your diet.
  • If you have itchy skin, keep cool, stay out of the sun, and wear cotton clothing. Talk to your doctor about using over-the-counter medicines, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Tripolon, to control the itching. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

To prevent spreading hepatitis B or C

  • Tell the people you live with or have sex with about your illness as soon as possible.
  • Do not donate blood or blood products, organs, semen, or eggs (ova).
  • Stop all sexual activity or use latex condoms until your doctor tells you that you can no longer give the virus to others. Avoid anal contact with a sex partner while you are infected.
  • Do not share your personal items. These include razors, toothbrushes, towels, and nail files.
  • Tell your doctor, dentist, and anyone else who may come in contact with your blood about your illness.
  • If you are pregnant, tell the doctor who will deliver your baby about your illness. If you have hepatitis B, be sure your baby gets medicine to prevent infection, starting right after birth.
  • Clean or carefully get rid of your clothing, sanitary pads, or anything that has your blood on it.
  • Make sure to clean surfaces that have your blood or any other body fluid on them. Examples are semen andmenstrual blood. Use a solution of bleach and water. To dilute household bleach, follow the directions on thelabel. Clean toilet seats, countertops, and floors.

To prevent hepatitis A

  • Always wash your hands after using the washroom and before handling food.
  • If you have been exposed to someone who may have hepatitis A, ask your doctor about getting a shot of immune globulin (also called gamma globulin). It can help your body fight hepatitis A.

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).

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

  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than normal.
  • You cannot keep down medicine or fluids.
  • You have new or more blood in stools.
  • You have new or worse vomiting or diarrhea.

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 https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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