Hepatitis A - children

Definition

Hepatitis A in children is swelling and inflamed tissue of the liver due to the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is the most common type of hepatitis in children.

Causes

HAV is found in the stool (feces) and blood of an infected child.

A child can catch hepatitis A by:

Children can get hepatitis A at day care center from other children or from child care workers who have the virus and do not practice good hygiene.

Other common hepatitis virus infections include hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is typically the least serious and mildest of these diseases.

Symptoms

Most children age 6 years and younger do not have any symptoms. This means that your child could have the disease, and you may not know it. This can make it easy to spread the disease among young children.

When symptoms occur, they appear about 2 to 6 weeks after infection. The child may have flu-like symptoms, or the symptoms may be mild. Severe or fulminant hepatitis (liver failure) is rare in healthy children. The symptoms are often easy to manage and include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam of your child. This is done to check for pain and swelling in the liver.

The provider will perform a blood test to look for:

Treatment

There is no drug treatment for hepatitis A. Your child's immune system will fight the virus. Managing the symptoms can help your child feel better while recovering:

While rare, symptoms may be severe enough that children with HAV need extra fluids through a vein (IV).

Outlook (Prognosis)

HAV does not remain in a child's body after the infection is gone. As a result, it does not cause a long-term infection in the liver.

Rarely, a new case can cause severe liver failure that develops rapidly.

Possible Complications

The possible complications of hepatitis A in children can be:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your child's provider if your child has symptoms of hepatitis A.

Also contact the provider if your child has:

Prevention

You can protect your child from hepatitis A by having your child vaccinated.

If your child attends day care:

If your child gets hepatitis A, you can take these steps to help prevent the disease from spreading to other children or adults:


Review Date: 2/19/2018
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.