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Learning About Hepatitis C in Children

The digestive system

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver infection. It is caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus is spread through infected blood and body fluids.

Hepatitis C is often spread when a person shares infected needles used to inject illegal drugs. It also can be spread if a person uses a needle that has infected blood on it. This could happen when getting a tattoo or piercing.

In rare cases, a mother with hepatitis C can spread the virus to her baby at birth.

You cannot get hepatitis C from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.

What happens when your child has hepatitis C?

Some people who get hepatitis C have it for a short time and then get better. This is called acute hepatitis C.

But most people get long-term, or chronic, hepatitis C. This can lead to liver damage as well as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.

What are the symptoms?

Most people who get hepatitis C do not have symptoms at first. Symptoms may include:

  • Tiredness.
  • Headache.
  • Sore muscles.
  • Nausea.
  • Pain in the upper right belly.
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
  • Dark urine.

How can you prevent hepatitis C in your child?

There is no vaccine to prevent the disease. Anyone who has hepatitis C can spread the virus to someone else. But there are things you can do to make infection less likely.

  • If your child wants to get a tattoo, make sure he or she understands the importance of making sure all tools and supplies are sterilized.
  • Make sure your child understands that sharing needles when injecting drugs is another way to get hepatitis C.
  • Teach your child not to share toiletries such as toothbrushes, nail clippers, or other items that could have an infected person's blood on them.

How is hepatitis C treated?

Children with acute and chronic hepatitis C may need to take medicine.

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.

Where can you learn more?

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