Hepatitis A: What every mom should know

As a mother you must be taking every care to ensure hygiene for your child. And with all the precautions that you take, you must be thinking that your child is protected from the danger of Hepatitis A…but unfortunately this is not so. Hepatitis A germs spread through contaminated food and water …sharing a tiffin in school with an infected friend or eating food prepared by an infected person at a birthday party can expose your child to Hepatitis A germs. As a mom, you must be stressing on the importance of hand hygiene…but sometimes a child may not pay heed to your words. Sometimes he may eat without cleaning dirty hands. In some cases, in day care settings, the care-taker may not wash hands after changing the diaper of an infected child and feed a healthy child thereby infecting him/ her.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus. Approximately 50% of children with hepatitis A under the age of 6 years do not have any symptoms. 1But others display mild symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, loose stools, body ache and loss of appetite. Your active toddler may feel lethargic and restless. His eyes and skin may start appearing yellow and stools may be clay colored.

Depending on the severity, it can keep your child from school and play for 4-8 weeks.

How does Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A spreads through contaminated food and water. It can also spread through close contact with an infected person (for example, if a care-taker or a food server at school has Hepatitis A). The virus can survive in both water and soil.

How is Hepatitis A detected and confirmed?

A blood test can confirm the presence of Hepatitis A.

How is this disease treated?

There is no cure for hepatitis A. Your child may need rest and may not be able to eat complete meals for several weeks. If the child is dehydrated, hospitalization may be needed. You may have to isolate your child from his playmates as Hepatitis A remains contagious for some time.

About the Hepatitis A shot

With the existing condition of sanitation in India, Hepatitis A is common here. 2The Hepatitis A vaccine is part of the compulsory immunization schedule for your child. So be sure to give him/ her the Hep A vaccine on time for protection. The effectiveness and safety of the Hepatitis vaccines has been proven. 3

It is vital that you give your child the Hep A vaccine on time to prevent him/ her from falling sick due to Hepatitis A and missing days of school or other activities. This vaccine can also prevent your child from getting sick from hepatitis A as he or she gets older, when the disease is more serious.

The Hepatitis A vaccination can be taken at any age (above the age of 1); hence if you have not got vaccinated before, you can protect yourself by getting vaccinated now.

References:

  1. World J Hepatol. 2012 Mar 27; 4(3): 68–73.
  2. Natl Med J India. 2006 Jul-Aug;19(4):203-17.
  3. 2003 Jun 2;21(19-20):2242-5.

 

 

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