Hepatitis B in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Hepatitis B is a virus that can infect the liver. It can spread through infected blood, semen, and other body fluids during sex and when people share needles to inject drugs. It can also spread when an infected person shares items that may have blood on them, such as a razor or toothbrush. Needles used for tattoos, body piercing, or acupuncture can spread hepatitis B if they are not cleaned properly.

After your child is infected, it may be 1 to 6 months before you see symptoms. Or symptoms may be so mild that you don't notice them. But your child can infect other people both before and after symptoms start.

The virus can cause tiredness, a fever, and nausea. Your child may vomit and have light-coloured stools, and dark urine. His or her skin and eyes may look yellow. This is called jaundice.

Most people get better in several weeks, but it can take several months. Children are more likely than adults to have the virus stay in their bodies (become chronically infected). If the virus stays in your child's body for a long time, it can cause serious liver disease. After your child has had the virus and feels better, he or she will not get it again.

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 or nurse call line 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 your child's activity to match his or her 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 is okay.
  • If your doctor prescribes antiviral medicine for your child, give it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • If your child has nausea or vomiting, have him or her try to eat smaller meals more often.
  • Give plenty of fluids, enough so that your child's urine is light yellow or clear like water.
  • If your child has itchy skin, be sure he or she keeps cool, stays out of the sun, and wears cotton clothes. Talk to your child's doctor about using over-the-counter medicines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin). They can help control the itching. Read and follow the instructions on the label.

Prevention

  • Tell the people who live with your child about his or her illness right away. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that people in close contact with an infected child get the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Do not let your child donate blood, blood products, or organs.
  • Do not let your child share items that may have his or her blood on them. These include razors, toothbrushes, towels, and nail files.
  • Tell your child to use lotions or ointments to prevent chapped or broken skin, which can expose others to blood.
  • Tell your child's doctor and dentist about your child's illness. And tell anyone else who may come in contact with your child's blood.
  • If your child gets blood on clothing or other fabrics, clean them well.
  • Use care when you throw away items that have your child's blood on them, such as tissues. Wear gloves. Place the items in sealed plastic bags before you throw them away.
  • Mix 1 part bleach with 10 parts water. Use this liquid to clean surfaces that have your child's blood or any other body fluid on them. For instance, use it to clean toilet seats, counters, and floors.
  • If your child has long-term hepatitis B, be sure to explain that he or she can still spread the virus to others. This can happen even if your child has no symptoms.

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 or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed, 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 or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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