When Hepatitis A (HAV) Infection Hits Your Little One

What are the Effects of HAV Infection in your Kids?

HepatitisĀ is the medical term used to describe the inflammation of the liver. There are a number of causes for hepatitis. One of the prime causes of hepatitis is HAV (hepatitis A virus).

How can your Child get the Virus?

The virus enters human body through food or water contamination. An infected child can be another good source of infection. One example can be of a child getting the virus from infected stool while changing dirty diapers or using the same washroom that was previously used by an infected individual.

That is why parents must help their children develop the habit of washing hands after using the bathroom. It has been seen that HAV spreads in places such as daycare or restaurants. The good thing is that the child does not fall ill very badly though he may develop flu like signs and symptoms. Generally, this will not cause any long-term disorders.

What Symptoms of Hepatitis A will my Child Show?

Usually, it takes about 2 to 6 weeks after viral exposure for the symptoms to start appearing in the child. They have been reported as mild generally and the child may complain of:

  • Pain in the stomach- When asked to tell locate the area specifically, he may point out to the upper right part of the abdomen (the liver is located there)
  • Fatigue and may appear lethargic
  • Headache
  • Pain in the joints and muscles
  • Gastric symptoms like stomach upset, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Jaundice (there is a yellowish tint on the skin and white of the eye, urine is also dark)
  • Itchiness all over the skin
  • Fever- The fever is generally of low grade and mild in nature.

How Does the Doctor Confirm that it is Indeed a Hepatitis A Infection?

You will be asked certain questions to understand whether the child was exposed to HAV by any means or not. To confirm, blood tests will be conducted.

Apart from that, tests are conducted to know if the liver is functioning properly or has undergone any level of damage.

What is the Treatment for Hepatitis A?

There is no specific remedy or medicine to cure hepatitis A. The virus takes its own course. The primary aim is to provide the child symptomatic relief and provide him with maximum comfort. The two most important steps taken are as follows:

  • Prevention of dehydration: The child is encouraged to have a substantial amount of fluid intake to prevent the occurrence of any sign of dehydration. Fluids can be water, fruit juices or electrolyte solutions.
  • Rest: The child should be allowed to take good rest. This allows the body to heal by itself.

As long as the child is sick, consult a doctor before giving him any OTC (over-the-counter) drug. This is to safeguard the liver as it has to metabolize the drugs.

How Can I Prevent the Spreading of Virus from my Child to Others?

Your child, when infected, can act as a source of infection even before the symptoms develop within him.

You can take precautions like the following:

  • Let your child stay at home without sending him to daycare or a school so that the outbreak is contained to some extent.
  • Get every member of your family immunized against viral hepatitis. This is a protection for those who have not been exposed to the virus yet. If you get the vaccine just after being exposed to the virus, the degree of symptoms also decrease. It would be good if your family members get immunized for both hepatitis A and B as well.

In some extremely rare cases of hepatitis A infection, the child may undergo liver failure. If the child is already suffering from any type of liver disorder, hepatitis A infection may just worsen the prevailing condition of the child. Normally, the child gets well without any complications.

Doctors advise that parents must wash the hands of their children thoroughly with soap and water when their kids come home after playing outdoors. Besides, their nails must be cut short so that the fingers remain clean and there is no place for the dirt or germs to get trapped underneath the nails.


David AM. Hepatitis A outbreaks--methods of intervention in South-East Asian countries. Int J Infect Dis. 2004 Jul;8(4):201-9.

Sokal EM, Bortolotti F.Update on prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis in children. Curr Opin Pediatr. 1999 Oct;11(5):384-9.

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