Children's Hospital Colorado

Hepatitis A

What is hepatitis?

In simple terms, hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Many things can cause hepatitis, including viruses (hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C), fatty liver disease, and autoimmune and metabolic liver disease.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver from a virus called "hepatitis A."

What causes hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus typically caught by close contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water. More than 25,000 cases per year are reported in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Who gets hepatitis A?

Anyone can become infected with hepatitis A, and both males and females are equally susceptible.

What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A?

Symptoms can occur 15 to 50 days after someone is exposed to the virus. Younger children frequently have only mild flu-like symptoms, while older children and adults usually become sicker.

Common symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

How is hepatitis A diagnosed?

Standard blood tests often reveal liver inflammation, and a more specialized blood test can confirm hepatitis A infection (hepatitis A IgM positive).

Why choose Children's Hospital Colorado for hepatitis A testing?

At Children's Colorado, our staff members are specialists at obtaining blood from patients of all sizes, from babies to young adults. In addition, a special cream can be applied to decrease the inflammation.

How does Children's Colorado treat hepatitis A?

Most patients completely recover from hepatitis A within four to six weeks without any long-term complications. There is no medicine that directly treats hepatitis A, but in a minority of children, the infection can be very severe and result in major damage to the liver. Therefore, a liver specialist at Children's Colorado may need to admit a child with severe hepatitis A to the hospital in order to provide supportive care for the liver. In addition, the liver specialist will see the patient in clinic to ensure that the liver heals.

Do doctors recommend the hepatitis A vaccine?

The hepatitis A vaccine (shot) prevents contracting the disease after exposure. The vaccine preparations available in the U.S. consist of inactivated virus and are very effective. A series of two injections is necessary to ensure one develops protection against the virus.

A booster may also be needed to keep adequate protection. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare, but, if present, are a reason not to continue receiving the injections. This vaccine is recommended for all children at 1 year of age. It is also recommended for anyone else who has a vaccination program available to them or is at increased risk of contracting hepatitis A. This includes individuals with any chronic liver diseases or those traveling to an area where hepatitis A is common.

Why choose Children's Colorado for hepatitis treatment?

The Digestive Health Institute is consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for treatment of digestive disorders. We are one of the only Pediatric Liver Centers in the nation that has six board-certified hepatologists (liver specialists), as well as a nationally-recognized Infectious Disease team with expertise in infectious hepatitis.

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