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Hepatitis A


What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection.

How is HAV spread?

HAV is almost always spread through bowel movement contamination. The following are some ways HAV is spread:

  • Food handlers with HAV did not wash their hands after they used the bathroom.
  • You drank water that was not clean or ate raw shellfish that came from water that was not clean.
  • You traveled to areas in the world where hepatitis A is common.
  • Daycare workers did not wash their hands after they changed a diaper.
  • You had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A, especially men who have sex with men.

What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A?

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

How is hepatitis A diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms and any health problems you have. Tell him if you have hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or another liver disease. Tell him if you drink alcohol or use any illegal drugs. Blood tests are used to show if you are infected with HAV and to check your liver function.

How is hepatitis A treated?

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.

What can I do to 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.

How can I 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.