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Learning About Hepatitis A in Children

The digestive system

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver infection. It is caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus is found in the stool of a person who has the disease. It is spread when people eat food or drink water that has come in contact with the infected stool. This can happen if a person eats food prepared by someone who doesn't wash their hands after changing a diaper or using the toilet. It also can be spread when people touch items that have infected stool on them, and then drink or eat without washing their hands.

In countries that have poor sewer systems, people can get the virus by drinking the water or eating foods washed in the water.

A person can get the hepatitis A virus only once. After that, the body builds up a defence against it.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Tiredness.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
  • Vomiting.

Symptoms usually last about 3 months. They go away on their own in almost all cases and do not need treatment. Although hepatitis A is an infection of the liver, the disease does not lead to long-term liver problems.

How is hepatitis A treated?

There is no treatment for hepatitis A. You get better on your own. But there are things you can do to help your child feel better:

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Make sure your child eats regular meals.
  • To prevent dehydration, give your child lots of fluids.

How can you prevent hepatitis A in your child?

  • Make sure your child gets the recommended hepatitis A vaccine. But the vaccine, or a shot of immunoglobulin (IG), can help even after your child is exposed to hepatitis A.
  • Make sure you and your family wash your hands with soap and clean, running water after using the toilet and changing diapers and before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash dishes in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher.
  • Don't eat or drink anything that you think may have been prepared in unclean conditions.

Where can you learn more?

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