Hepatitis in Babies

Liver inflammation in kids is most often caused by hepatitis A. Here's the deal.
ByElena Donovan Mauer
Mar 2017
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What is hepatitis in babies?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. There are three main types of hepatitis here in the US: hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is the most common in babies and toddlers; it’s usually spread through infected food and drink. Hepatitis B and C are spread through blood and body fluids. Babies can contract hepatitis B and C from their moms during pregnancy and childbirth.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis in babies?

“Children who have hepatitis usually have pain in their abdomen,” says Katherine O’Connor, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City. “They could also be vomiting or jaundiced in color.” If your child looks kind of yellow and has vomiting and diarrhea, take him to the doctor to be checked out. 

Are there any tests for hepatitis in babies?

Because hepatitis affects the liver, a simple blood test to check the liver enzymes can be helpful in diagnosing hepatitis. Blood tests can also confirm the presence of hepatitis A, B or C.

How common is hepatitis in babies?

Hepatitis A is the most common form of hepatitis in kids. Hepatitis rates have been decreasing because effective vaccines are now available for hepatitis A and B.

How did my baby get hepatitis?

Most people who get hepatitis A get it by eating food that was prepared by someone who forgot to wash his or her hands after using the bathroom. Infants and toddlers who have hepatitis B and C generally contract it from their mothers at birth.

What’s the best way to treat hepatitis in babies?

Most cases of hepatitis A resolve without treatment, O’Connor says. Antiviral treatments may be used to treat hepatitis C. Talk to your doctor to see what treatment is available for hepatitis B.

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What can I do to prevent my baby from getting hepatitis?

Vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B. The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for children at age one. Two doses are required: the initial dose and a booster shot six months later.

The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants. Most get their first dose at birth; a total of three doses are typically given over a six-month period.

Good hygiene can prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Always wash your hands before preparing your child’s food, and insist that others do the same.

Are there any other resources for hepatitis in babies?

The Bump expert: Katherine O’Connor, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City

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