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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.

It's 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 the virus can spread it to her baby at birth.

You can't get the virus from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.

What happens when you have hepatitis C?

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

But most people get a long-term, or chronic, infection. This can lead to liver damage. It also can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure.

What are the symptoms?

Most people who have hepatitis C don't have symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may include fatigue, pain in the belly and joints, itchy skin, sore muscles, and dark urine. There may also be jaundice. This is a condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes look yellow.

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?

Medicines may be given for short-term (acute) hepatitis C. They are also used to treat a long-term (chronic) infection. Treatment may also help prevent liver problems. These include cirrhosis and liver cancer.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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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