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Hepatitis In Children: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Dr. Saqib Mansoor

4 min read

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Table of Contents

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a term that describes inflammation of the liver. It can be harmful to cells and destroys them. Liver inflammation can be a result of several viruses (called viral hepatitis), drugs, chemicals, alcohol, some disorders of genes or by an overly active immune system that attacks the liver by mistake, called autoimmune hepatitis.

Acute & chronic hepatitis: what’s the difference?

Acute hepatitis ensues in a child, that is previously healthy, without any preexisting liver injury. Major reasons of acute hepatitis in children include infections and medications.

Chronic hepatitis takes place in children that have an underlying liver disease. Children can have signs of advanced liver disease including poor weight gain. bleeding, cirrhosis and fluid build-up.

Hepatitis in Children, Its Causes:

The causes of hepatitis in children are:

Hepatitis in children may be the result of many things. Your child can be inflicted with hepatitis by exposed to a virus that is a causative agent. These viruses include the following types:

Hepatitis viruses are of five major types.

A, B, C, D, and E.

Hepatitis A:

This virus is transmitted via oro-fecal route. It is contracted by children in the following manners:

  • Consuming food prepared by an infected individual who did not wash his hands thoroughly after using bathroom.
  • In the developing countries, drinking water which is contaminated with infected feces is a big reason of Hepatitis A.
  • Due to touching an infected child’s feces or dirty diaper and after that putting your hands near your mouth inadvertently, can cause Hepatitis A. Outbreaks can take place in child-care centers.
  • Travel to areas where hepatitis A is common can cause it.   

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is transmitted via blood, when blood transmits from an infected person to enter another person’s body. It can be transmitted via needles and sharp instruments. It can also be transmitted by sharing of personal items, like toothbrushes and razors.

Babies may contract the virus during pregnancy if their mother is infected with the virus. Children can transmit it to others via direct contact or via cuts or abrasions.

Children at risk of contracting hepatitis B are:

  • Those children having being born to mothers inflicted with hepatitis B.
  • Those children having being born to mothers who have travelled from a region where hepatitis B is spread widely. These regions are China and Southeast Asia.
  • Those children with a blood-clotting problem, and hence need transfusions of blood products. This includes hemophilia.
  • Those children needing dialysis for the kidney failure.
  • Those children who reside in long-term care facilities, and disabled ones.
  • Those children who reside in homes where someone is harboring the virus.
  • Teenagers doing high-risk activities, including unprotected sex and IV (intravenous) drug use.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is transmitted through infected blood. It can also be transmitted via sexual contact. A mother can also transfer Hepatitis C to her baby while she is pregnant.

The children are at risk for contracting hepatitis C are:

  • Those children that have a blood clotting problem, like hemophilia.
  • Those children having a need of dialysis for kidney failure.
  • Those children having being born to a mother who has the virus.
  • Teenagers doing high-risk activities, including unprotected sex and IV (intravenous) drug use. 

Hepatitis D

  • Hepatitis D can only occur with hepatitis B. Hepatitis D can be present when your child is infected with hepatitis B previously, or it can occur later.
  • Hepatitis D is not transmitted from a mother to the baby during pregnancy.
  • The countries where EPI is followed, the hepatitis B vaccine is given to kids, who do not usually contract Hepatitis B and thence Hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E

This kind of hepatitis is similar to hepatitis A. It’s transmitted via oro-fecal route. Hepatitis E is commoner in the developing countries. It’s not usually seen in the U.S.

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV). Cytomegalovirus is a part of herpes virus family.
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This virus results in mononucleosis.
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV). Herpes may involve the genitals. the face, and the skin above one’s waist.
  • Varicella zoster virus (VZV, chickenpox). Hepatitis is a complication of this virus. Though, in children it is a rare cause.  
  • Enteroviruses (EV). This group of viruses is present in children frequently. They are RNA viruses and include coxsackieviruses and echoviruses.
  • Rubella. This is a less severe disease that results in a rash.
  • Adenovirus. In children, this group of viruses results in tonsillitis, colds, and infections of ear. They may also induce diarrhea. There have been reports recently, of severe hepatitis amongst the children that can be associated with an adenovirus, and the virus is common.  
  • Parvovirus. This virus results in fifth disease. Symptoms comprise a red rash on the face, called “slapped-cheek” appearance. It is a mild disease.
  • Other conditions can also result in hepatitis in children. These may include autoimmune liver disease. In this disease, immune system of your child’s makes antibodies that attack their liver. This results in inflammation that leads to hepatitis. Medicines can also lead to hepatitis. A medicine that is metabolized in liver may cause inflammation of liver if administered over an extended span of time or taken in large quantities.  

Symptoms of Hepatitis:

It can present rather differently in every child. Some children may be symptomless.

Symptoms of acute (sudden) hepatitis can be:

  • Yellow color of the skin or the sclera (white of the eyes), called jaundice.
  • Fever
  • Symptoms like flu
  • Tenderness of abdomen especially in the right upper corner
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Feeling unwell and fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Stomach discomfort or pain
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Soreness in muscles
  • Red hives on the skin that are Itchy
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Stool color is that of clay

The symptoms of hepatitis may be similar to symptoms of other disease conditions. So, make sure your child consults their pediatrician for establishing a diagnosis. 

Treatment of Hepatitis in children:

Your child’s treatment depends on the cause of hepatitis. The aim of treatment is to halt further damage to your kid’s liver. The treatment aim also is to help alleviate symptoms.

Your child’s treatment typically can include:

  • Medicines. These can help in control of itching, to treat the virus, or to control an autoimmune disease.
  • Supportive care. It includes consuming a healthy diet and having plenty of rest.
  • Reducing risk. It includes to stop consumption of alcohol or any illegal drugs.
  • Blood testing. This tells about the progression of the disease.
  • Hospital stays. This is employed in many cases.
  • Liver transplant. This is carried out for an end-stage liver failure.

Helping to prevent the spread of viral hepatitis.

  • For prevention of infection, children have to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
  • There are present no vaccines for hepatitis C, D and E.
  • Prevention of the disease comprises practicing good personal health habits (hygiene), such as handwashing and disinfection.

How you can you help your child live with hepatitis?

Work with your child’s pediatrician to build a care plan for your child. If your child has developed chronic hepatitis, he or she will be needing ample amount of rest, consume a healthy diet, and strictly taking medicines as prescribed.

When should I call my child’s pediatrician?

Call your child’s pediatrician when your child is showing symptoms of hepatitis, such as jaundice. You should also call the pediatrician if your kid is having exposure to viruses that are causative agents of the disease.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Saqib Mansoor
Dr. Saqib Mansoor - Author Dr. Saqib Mansoor is a top Pediatrician with 27 years of experience. You can book an in-person appointment or an online video consultation with Dr. Saqib Mansoor through oladoc.com or by calling at 0618048444.

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