Hepatitis in children – possible causes, symptoms and prevention

There are a few methods to decrease a child’s chance of contracting the disease. The most effective way is immunization by vaccines. For Hepatitis A, children below 18 years of age receive the vaccine in two or three doses for immunization. 

Hepatitis in children – possible causes, symptoms and prevention
When blood from an infected patient enters the body of some other individual, hepatitis B and C is transmitted. Sharp objects like needles have the potential to transfer it

By Dr. Gowri Kulkarni

Inflammation of the liver is known as hepatitis. Swelling caused by inflammation occurs when bodily tissues are disturbed or attacked. The degree of liver injury and swelling may have an impact on the functions it performs. The infection can be acute and in certain cases even chronic. Although viral infections are the most common factor causing hepatitis, there are other possible sources, too. If not treated appropriately, the disease could even lead to adverse risks like liver cancer or failure and even death. In India, viral hepatitis, which is brought on by A to E types of hepatitis viruses, still remains a critical public health concern.

Children who are exposed to these viruses in their day-to-day life are infected with hepatitis. The Hepatitis A strain spreads via faecal-oral contact. Children who consume contaminated food & did not thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom are at risk of getting infected. Consumption of water contaminated by faeces or bringing one’s hands near the mouth after coming in direct contact with an infected person’s excreta also spreads Hepatitis in children. Travelling internationally to regions where hepatitis A is prevalent can be another cause of it.

When blood from an infected patient enters the body of some other individual, hepatitis B and C is transmitted. Sharp objects like needles have the potential to transfer it. Sharing personal belongings like toothbrushes and razors can also spread it. If a mother has the virus, her unborn child may inherit it while she is pregnant. Rarely, through household contact or through scratches or cuts, children might spread it to others. Only those who have already caught hepatitis B can develop hepatitis D. Hepatitis D might develop later or concurrently with a child’s hepatitis B infection. A mother cannot transmit hepatitis D to her unborn child while she is pregnant. Hepatitis E is similar to Hepatitis A as it spreads through faecal contact.

The signs of this illness can resemble those of other medical conditions. Ensuring that the child receives an accurate diagnosis from their doctor is important. If a child has chronic hepatitis, they must consume nutritious meals, receive enough of rest, and follow their medications exactly as directed. While few children may be asymptomatic, the effect and symptoms of the infection vary among different children. Symptoms are similar to those of flu and can include skin colour or eye whites turning yellow (jaundice), reduced appetite, feeling generally unwell, ache and uneasiness in the stomach, vomiting, red and itchy hives on the skin, urine with a deep colour, fever, sore joints and muscles, nausea or diarrhoea, etc.

There are a few methods to decrease a child’s chance of contracting the disease. The most effective way is immunization by vaccines. For Hepatitis A, children below 18 years of age receive the vaccine in two or three doses for immunization.  Six to twelve months after the initial dose of their vaccination, adults require a booster shot.  The vaccine is found to be beneficial for at least 15-20 years. Similarly, for Hepatitis B prevention can last for at least 15 years with the use of safe and effective vaccinations. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggests vaccination for all infants, children up to age 18, and adults indulging in sexual activities. Full protection requires three shots spaced six to twelve months apart. The Universal Immunization Program offers the hepatitis B vaccine in India. Infection of the hepatitis D virus is also prevented by the hepatitis B vaccine.

Generally, to avoid catching any kind of Hepatitis, cleansing hands after using the restroom and before touching or consuming any food and refraining from sharing pharmaceutical needlesticks is essential. Most importantly maintaining a good hygiene in all conditions helps to curb the spread of this dangerous sickness, especially in children.

(The author is Head of Medical Operations, MediBuddy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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