Hepatitis in Children

Hepatitis in Children

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Hepatitis is basically the inflammation of the liver. It 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 develop serious complications as adults if it goes undetected. 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 seafood, which is why it is important to procure seafood 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 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 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 can be affected due to their immunocompromised status.
  • Kids who use illegal drugs, due to infected needle use.
  • Kids who drink water contaminated by faeces.
  • Adolescents who undergo unprotected sex.

Different Types of Hepatitis

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

1. 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, seafood, 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 loss of appetite, pain in the stomach, tiredness, and fatigue. If a Hepatitis A vaccine shot is given, there could be side effects, such as 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 bilirubin, liver panel, ALT, 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 afterwards. The vaccine is also recommended for teenagers and young adults, including people who live in areas prone to the Hepatitis A infection.

2. 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 in children is caused by the following:

  • Newborns whose mothers are infected with Hepatitis B.
  • Exposure to blood infected with Hepatitis B, like infected blood transfusions or needle pricks.
  • Sharing drugs or needles with someone who is infected with Hepatitis B.
  • Unprotected sex with a person infected with Hepatitis B.

How Does It Spread?

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

  • Their mothers who are already Hepatitis B-infected and carriers of the disease.
  • Touching open wounds of an infected person.
  • Can be transmitted inadvertently by the sharing of personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, body jewellery and other personal items that have small amounts of blood on them.
  • Hepatitis B is not spread through sneezing, coughing, hugging, or breastfeeding. Although the virus can be found in saliva, it is not believed to be spread through kissing or sharing utensils.

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.

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 are 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 Hepatitis B in the future.

3. 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 newborn 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 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

Antiviral may help along with some palliative medications, but Hepatitis C is difficult to cure completely and has poor prognosis over a period of time.

Prevention

Just like its other viral counterparts, Hepatitis C is best prevented by eliminating exposure to sources contaminated by the infection.

4. Hepatitis D in Children

Symptoms

Hepatitis D symptoms are very similar to those of Hepatitis B.

  • 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 is associated with Hepatitis B infections.

How Does It Spread?

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

Risks

There is no specific treatment available for Hepatitis D infections. If the Hepatitis D  infection lasts for over six months, it is known as chronic Hepatitis D. Such cases have higher chances of complications, such as cirrhosis, or severe scarring of the liver.

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 to prevent the chances of a Hepatitis D complication.

5. Hepatitis E In Children

Symptoms

The symptoms of Hepatitis E are very similar to those of Hepatitis A 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 also contracted by newborn babies by mothers infected during pregnancies. Therefore, 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 spreads.

Risks

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

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is carried out by doctors for Hepatitis E through a series of blood tests to 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