Hepatitis (Jaundice)

This disease strikes terror in families because parents fear the worst outcome or have many misconceptions.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.

Most cases are not recognized because it is generally mild and symptoms are not severe. Its symptoms are nonspecific like fever, headache, general achiness, loss of appetite, or an itchy rash. After a few days, you will notice more nausea and vomiting, stomach ache, and in some cases jaundice (yellowness of the whites of the eyes and skin). Urine will be dark and stools will change to a tan or white color. The area of skin over the liver can be quite tender from the swelling of the liver.

Viruses cause inflammation of the liver including the virus of mononucleosis ( Ebstein-Barr virus ). Two common forms of hepatitis are infectious or “A” type and Serum or “B” type. Incubation period can vary from 1 month for infectious hepatitis to 6 months for serum hepatitis. Infectious hepatitis is spread from one person to another from intimate contact or from infected water or food. Serum hepatitis is spread by contact with contaminated blood which can occur when infected needles are used or shared or sexual contact.

There is no cure for the viral infection once it develops in the body.

Treatment focuses on meeting the nutritional needs of the infected child. Foods should be lower in fats and contain only mild to moderate amounts of proteins. Carbohydrates are easier to digest than fats or proteins, but all food types can be eaten.

If a member of the family is known to have infectious hepatitis, all family members may receive immune globulin to prevent or to minimize the severity of hepatitis. Once the disease is diagnosed, immune globulin will not stop the infected person’s disease. Some children and adults can have damage to the liver or chronic hepatitis. It is important to prevent cases of hepatitis, whenever possible. Fortunately, there will be complete recovery from infectious hepatitis in more than 90% of children.