Hepatitis In Children – An Overview

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HEPATITIS VIRUS AFFECTS THE LIVER

Hepatitis is basically the inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis strikes adults more commonly than babies and children. There are various types of the disease namely – Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. While it, usually, is caused by a virus, Hepatitis may originate from other sources too. Read on for all you need to know about this ailment.

What Is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a viral disease, contagious in nature, and can spread from the mother to the new-born baby. From liver damage and liver cirrhosis to even death, hepatitis can go undetected and later develop serious complications as adults. Kids affected with hepatitis usually contract it from certain medications, inherited disorders, or by exposure to contagious substances.

How Common Is Hepatitis In Babies & Kids?

Hepatitis A is most common in babies and children. It comes from contaminated sea food, which is why it is important to procure sea food from sanitary sources. Faeces may also carry the virus which is why it is important to establish good hygiene and healthcare routines in babies and kids to avoid contracting this disease.

Which Kids Are At The Risk Of Getting Hepatitis?

The following kids are at risk of getting hepatitis if care is not exercised:

  • Children of mothers who are infected with Hepatitis
  • Children with autoimmune disease which lead to antibodies being produced inside their bodies and attacking their liver, thus leading to liver inflammation and hepatitis
  • Children who are exposed to the faeces of someone infected with hepatitis; eating food made by an individual who hasn’t washed his/her hands properly
  • Children living in parts of the world heavily infected with hepatitis such as Southeast Asia and China
  • Kids who undergo blood transfusions or ingest blood products
  • Children who have a blood clotting condition such as haemophilia
  • Children living in unsanitary day-care centres who end up wearing or being exposed to dirty diapers and unchanged clothing
  • Children affected with kidney failure who are in need of dialysis
  • Kids who are disabled
  • Kids who use illegal drugs
  • Kids who drink water contaminated by faeces
  • Teenagers who undergo unprotected sex and include the use of IV drugs (intravenous)

Different Types Of Hepatitis

Hepatitis is characterised by its different forms according to virus type. The different types of viruses include A, B, C, D, and E.

Hepatitis A in Children

  • Symptoms

Hepatitis A in children is denoted by the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Constant fatigue
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes

Hepatitis A is Denoted By Yellowing Of Skin & Eyes

  • Causes

Hepatitis A in children is contracted from:

  • Contaminated fruits, vegetables, sea food, and other food sources
  • Eating food made by someone who hasn’t washed his/her hands
  • A mother who is already infected with hepatitis A
  • How Does It Spread?

Hepatitis A spreads in children by:

  • Touching an infected source or substance affected by hepatitis A such as faeces or dirty diapers
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Contact with a person infected with hepatitis A
  • Risks

Hepatitis A can persist for months if left untreated. Risks involved include a loss of appetite, pain in the stomach, and tiredness and fatigue. The only risks or side effects involved in getting a Hepatitis A vaccine shot are a sore arm from the shot and tiredness, which usually lasts between one to two days.

  • Diagnosis

The disease is diagnosed by blood tests like the HAV IgM antibody test which is used for detecting early stages of the infection. This diagnosis is carried out to test for recent infections in people with acute hepatitis as well. The HAV IgG test is a sequential diagnosis test conducted in conjunction with the HAV IgM antibody test. The HAV IgG test looks for antibodies that develop during the later stages of this disease.

Tests related to bilirubinliver panelALT, and AST are also performed along with viral hepatitis tests for detailed diagnostics of prevalent Hepatitis A in kids and children.

  • Treatment

There are no specific therapies available for the complete treatment of the disease. Treatment is supportive in nature and the ailment is a short-term condition that fades away on its own in few weeks to months.

  • Prevention

To prevent or limit outbreaks of Hepatitis A in communities, it is recommended to administer the Hepatitis A vaccine to children between 12-23 months of age followed by a second shot around 6-18 months afterward. The vaccine is also recommended for teenagers and young adults, including people who live in areas prone to the Hepatitis A infection.

Hepatitis B In Children

  • Symptoms

Infected children show the following symptoms, which appear after 3 to 4 months of being infected with the virus:

  • Joint pain, muscle aches, and pain in the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Rash
  • Lack of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Expulsion of dark urine
  • Fever
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Causes

Hepatitis B is caused in children by the following:

  • New borns whose mothers had unprotected sex with their partners during pregnancy
  • Exposure to blood infected with Hepatitis B
  • Coming in contact with people affected by Hepatitis B
  • Sharing drugs, needles, or other household objects with someone who is infected with Hepatitis B
  • How Does It Spread?

Hepatitis B is contagious and can spread from one child to another through body fluids or fluids containing trace amounts of blood from the infected person. Children get infected with the virus through:

  • Their mothers who are already Hepatitis B-infected and carriers of the disease
  • Bites from an infected person
  • Touching open wounds of an infected person
  • Consuming food that is made or half-eaten by an infected person
  • Sharing toothbrushes and other personal items with an infected person
  • Risks

Not treating Hepatitis B can lead to serious and life-threatening implications in children over a prolonged period of time, and may even be fatal. Persisting conditions of Hepatitis B lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer as well. Risks associated with the vaccination treatment of Hepatitis B include mild soreness in the arm and short-term fever which lasts between two or three days.

  • Diagnosis

Hepatitis B is primarily detected through routine tests and standard blood diagnostics which look for the presence of the antibodies and antigens associated with the virus. Liver enzyme tests and liver biopsy is conducted for people who are afflicted by acute Hepatitis B.

  • Treatment

Routine vaccination of children during their young ages is an effective treatment and precaution against Hepatitis B. Children who travel to areas of the world affected by Hepatitis B must be immunized with a Hepatitis B vaccination.

Vaccination

  • Prevention

Vaccinating toddlers and infants early on is a sure fire way to prevent Hepatitis B. Infants must be vaccinated in the early stages right after birth to eliminate the chances of a Hepatitis B occurrence in the future.

Hepatitis C in Children

  • Symptoms

The common Hepatitis C symptoms in children are:

  • Pain in the joints and muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Persisting high fever
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Dark urine
  • Causes

In children, Hepatitis C stems from mothers who have been infected with the virus, thus being passed down to kids during pregnancies. Children who have blood clotting conditions such as haemophilia and are in need of dialysis due to kidney function failure are prone to the effects of Hepatitis C.

  • How Does It Spread?

If a mother is afflicted with Hepatitis C during pregnancy, the virus is spread from the mother to the new born baby. The infection is contagious in nature and is passed from one person to another through body fluids or sharing objects as well.

  • Risks

Chronic Hepatitis C, when left untreated, can lead to liver cirrhosis and even death. Impaired cognitive development may be caused due to a condition called hepatic encephalopathy where toxins build up in the brain due to liver impairment.

  • Diagnosis

Your doctor may perform ultrasound scans of your child to examine the liver region of your baby. Routine blood testing for liver enzymes, liver function, blood cell counts, and coagulation tests are performed for diagnosing Hepatitis C in children.

  • Treatment

For children who are in the early stages of Hepatitis C, treatment with standard doses of Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can be administered. Routine blood tests along with antiviral medications serve as the primary modes of treatment for Hepatitis C infections in children.

  • Prevention

Just like its other viral counterparts, Hepatitis C is best prevented by eliminating exposure to sources contaminated by the infection. From not ingesting contaminated foods to water, and avoiding contact with persons infected by the virus, children can best avoid the ill effects of this disease.

Hepatitis D in Children

  • Symptoms

Hepatitis D symptoms are very similar to those of Hepatitis B. These are the following symptoms:

  • Joint pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Darker shades of urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Causes

Hepatitis D is not caused on its own and derived from Hepatitis B infections.

  • How Does It Spread?

It is passed down through exchange of bodily fluids or through contact with a person who is already infected with Hepatitis D. Exposure to Hepatitis D infected mucous spreads the infection to others as well.

  • Risks

There is no specific treatment available for Hepatitis D infections and the only way to avoid contracting it is by administering your child with vaccinations after birth.

  • Diagnosis

Hepatitis D is diagnosed through blood tests which are used for detecting antibodies for Hepatitis D. A liver function test is carried out alongside blood tests to check for signs of the disease.

  • Treatment

Hepatitis D does not have specific vaccinations for treatment. It can be eliminated by preventing Hepatitis B from occurring through prior vaccination.

  • Prevention

Avoid engaging in unprotected sex or exposing your child to bodily fluids infected with Hepatitis B infections to prevent the chances of a Hepatitis D complication.

Hepatitis E In Children

  • Symptoms

The symptoms of Hepatitis E are very similar to those of other Hepatitis-type infections. The following are the well-known symptoms of Hepatitis E in children:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low-grade fever
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain and muscle aches
  • Causes

In industrialised areas, Hepatitis E is contracted from uncooked contaminated meat. Hepatitis E is contracted from mothers to new born babies during pregnancies, so, extra care must be exercised to avoid coming into contact with Hepatitis E in the first place.

Infected faeces spread Hepatitis

  • How Does It Spread?

Not washing hands properly before and after serving food, coming into contact with stool or faeces infected with Hepatitis E are the primary ways the infection is spread.

  • Risks

There are no long-term implications of Hepatitis E besides liver failure which will require intensive hospitalization and treatment care. Hepatitis E infections last short-term periods ranging between four to six weeks usually.

  • Diagnosis

Diagnosis is carried out by doctors for Hepatitis E through a series of blood tests which search for specific antibodies present in the blood.

  • Treatment

There is no vaccine or treatment method available for curing this disease.

  • Prevention

Establishing proper hygiene and healthy lifestyle habits prevent Hepatitis E. Hygiene habits such as washing hands properly, ensuring a fresh supply of water that is free from contamination and monitoring food sources and running quality checks before serving are surefire ways of preventing contact with Hepatitis E.

Although Hepatitis results in liver failure and damage in children, it is avoidable when care and adequate steps are taken towards its prevention. Prevent the disease today by ensuring your child eats right and gets vaccinated on time!

Also read: Chikungunya Virus Infection During Pregnancy

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