Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can damage and destroy liver cells.
Hepatitis in children can be caused by many things. Your child can get hepatitis by being exposed to a virus that causes it. These viruses can include:
Conditions can also cause hepatitis in children. These can include autoimmune liver disease. For this disease, your child’s immune system makes antibodies that attack the liver. This causes inflammation that leads to hepatitis.
Children who are exposed to a virus that causes hepatitis are more likely to get hepatitis.
This form of the virus is passed through fecal-oral contact. It’s spread to children in the following ways:
Hepatitis B is spread when blood from an infected person enters another person's body. It can be spread through needle sticks, sharp instruments, and sharing items. These include razors and toothbrushes.
Babies may catch the virus during pregnancy if their mother has the virus. Children can spread it to others through household contact or through scrapes or cuts.
The following children are at risk for hepatitis B:
Hepatitis C passes through infected blood. It can also be passed through sexual contact. Moms can also pass it to their babies during pregnancy. The following children are at risk for hepatitis C:
This type of hepatitis can only happen with hepatitis B. Hepatitis D can happen at the same time your child is infected with hepatitis B, or it can start later.
Hepatitis D cannot be spread from a mom to her baby during pregnancy. This condition is rare in children born in the U.S. This is because the hepatitis B vaccine is given to babies. Hepatitis D only happens in patients already infected with hepatitis B.
This form of hepatitis is like hepatitis A. It’s spread through fecal-oral contact. Hepatitis E is most common in developing countries. It’s rare in the U.S.
Symptoms can happen a bit differently in each child. Some children don’t have any symptoms.
Symptoms of fast onset (acute) hepatitis may include:
The symptoms of this condition may look like symptoms of other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s healthcare provider will check his or her health history. He or she will also give your child an exam. Your child may also need other tests.
Your child’s healthcare provider may do blood tests for the following:
A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body. This test will show your child’s bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
Ultrasound uses sound waves to examine parts of the body. It is particularly effective in examining the liver.
This test uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer. Together, these show detailed images of organs and structures inside your child’s body.
Your child’s healthcare provider may take out a sample of tissue from your child’s liver. Then he or she may look at it closely under a microscope.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Your child’s treatment will depend on what’s causing his or her hepatitis. The goal of treatment is to stop damage to your child’s liver. It’s also to help ease symptoms. Your child’s treatment may include:
The main complications of hepatitis include liver failure, liver cancer, or death. This is more likely with hepatitis B or C.
Work with your child’s healthcare provider to create a care plan for your child. If your child has chronic hepatitis, he or she will need to get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet, and take medicines as prescribed.
Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has symptoms of hepatitis, such as jaundice. You should also call if your child is exposed to viruses that can cause the disease.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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