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Hepatitis C in Children
is inflammation of the liver caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Hepatitis C is less common in children than in adults.
Common signs and symptoms:
Your child may not have symptoms. If symptoms develop, he or she may have any of the following:
- Dark urine or pale bowel movements
- Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes) and itchy skin
- Joint pain, body aches, or weakness
- Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
Seek care immediately if:
- Your child has severe abdominal pain.
- Your child is too dizzy to stand up.
- Your child feels confused or is very sleepy.
- Your child's bowel movements are red or black, and sticky.
- Your child vomits blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
- Your child is vomiting and cannot keep food or liquids down.
Call your child's doctor if:
- Your child has a fever.
- Your child's abdomen or legs have a rash or are swollen.
- Your child is bruising easily.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
HCV may go away without treatment when it is passed from a mother to her baby during birth. Your child may not need treatment if his or her body fights the HCV. His or her infection will be chronic if it has not gone away by the time he or she is 2 years old. Children younger than 3 years usually do not receive treatment. Your child's healthcare provider will talk to you about any treatments your child or adolescent may need. Medicines may be given to keep the virus from spreading. Medicines may also prevent or decrease liver swelling and damage. Rarely, surgery may be needed to replace your child's liver with a healthy liver.
Manage your child's hepatitis C:
- Talk to your child's healthcare provider about vaccines. He or she will need hepatitis A and B vaccines if he or she has not received them. He or she should also get the flu vaccine each year.
- Offer a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats and fish. Ask if your child needs to be on a special diet.
- Have your child drink extra liquids. Liquids help the liver function properly. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much liquid your child needs each day and which liquids are best for him or her.
- Help your child get more rest. Have your child slowly return to his or her normal activities when he or she feels better.
- Talk to your adolescent about not drinking alcohol. Alcohol can increase liver damage. Talk to your healthcare provider if your adolescent drinks alcohol and needs help to stop.
- Talk to your adolescent about not smoking. Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage hepatitis C. Smoking can also lead to more liver damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if your adolescent currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before your adolescent uses these products.
Prevent the spread of HCV:
- Have your child cover any open cuts or scratches. If blood from your child's wound gets on a surface, clean the surface with bleach right away. Put on gloves before you clean. Throw away any items with blood or body fluids on them, as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Do not let your child share personal items. These items include toothbrushes, nail clippers, and razors.
- Talk to your adolescent about safe sex. If your adolescent is sexually active, tell him or her to use a condom during sex. Sexually active girls should have their male partners wear a condom.
- Tell household members that your child has hepatitis C. They may need to be tested for HCV. Regular handwashing is important for your child and everyone who lives with him or her. Everyone should wash after the bathroom and before eating. Ask your healthcare provider if you should tell childcare providers or school officials that your child has hepatitis C.
- Protect your baby. Ask your healthcare provider if it is safe for you to breastfeed.
- Do not let your child donate blood. Donations are checked for HCV, but it is best not to donate.
Prevent the spread of germs:
- Keep your child away from other people while he or she is sick. This is especially important during the first 3 to 5 days of illness. The virus is most contagious during this time.
- Have your child wash his or her hands often. He or she should wash after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Have your child use soap and water. Show him or her how to rub soapy hands together, lacing the fingers. Wash the front and back of the hands, and in between the fingers. The fingers of one hand can scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Teach your child to wash for at least 20 seconds. Use a timer, or sing a song that is at least 20 seconds. An example is the happy birthday song 2 times. Have your child rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Your older child can use hand sanitizer with alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Remind your child to cover a sneeze or cough. Show your child how to use a tissue to cover his or her mouth and nose. Have your child throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Then your child should wash his or her hands well or use a hand sanitizer. Show your child how to use the bend of his or her arm if a tissue is not available.
- Tell your child not to share items. Examples include toys, drinks, and food.
Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:
Your child may need ongoing tests or treatment. 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.
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