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Hepatitis A


Hepatitis A

is inflammation of the liver caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. HAV is most often spread through contaminated food or water, or close contact with someone who is infected.

Common signs and symptoms:

You may have no symptoms. Symptoms usually begin between 28 to 30 days after exposure to HAV, but it may be up to 50 days. You may have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Low fever, usually under 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Dark urine or pale bowel movements
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Pain in the right upper side of your abdomen
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) and itchy skin

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You are too dizzy to stand up.
  • You vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your bowel movements are red or black, and sticky.
  • You feel confused, unusually sleepy, irritable, or jittery.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You are vomiting and cannot keep food or liquids down.
  • You are bruising easily.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


Usually you will be treated at home. Medicine may not be needed. If you vomit a lot, you may need to go to the hospital to get fluids through an IV. Rest and healthy food will help you get better. Check with your healthcare provider before you take any medicine. This includes over-the-counter medicine, herbs, and vitamins. Your healthcare provider may want you to change some of your medicines, or stop them, until your liver has recovered.

Manage hepatitis A:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and fish. Your healthcare provider or dietitian may recommend that you limit protein foods such as milk, fish, meat, and fatty foods. Protein and fat make your liver work harder. As you feel better, you can add other kinds of foods.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can increase liver damage. Talk to your healthcare provider if you drink alcohol and need help to stop.
  • Drink more liquids. Liquids help your liver function properly. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Get more rest. Rest if you are tired. Slowly return to your normal activities when you feel better.

Prevent the spread of HAV:

You are most contagious in the 2 weeks before and the first week after you become jaundiced. Your friends, sex partners, and family members may need to get the hepatitis A vaccine. If you already have hepatitis A, it is too late to get the vaccine. The following are important things you can do to keep from spreading the infection:

  • Do not share dishes or utensils. Soak dishes and utensils in boiling water. Then wash them, or use a dishwasher. You may want to use disposable dishes.
  • Do not prepare food or meals for other people.
  • Wash your hands well before you eat and after you use the bathroom or change a child's diaper.
  • Wash clothing and bedding in the hottest water setting.
  • Clean toilets with a product that kills germs.
  • Let your healthcare provider know if your work involves preparing or serving food, or close physical contact with other people. If you do this kind of work, the health department will need to evaluate if these people have been exposed to hepatitis A. You cannot return to work until your healthcare provider says it is safe.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.