Pediatric Hepatitis B
Pediatric hepatitis B is a virus that can cause a child’s liver tissue to swell and become inflamed. It can be passed by coming into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.
Hepatitis B is the most serious of the pediatric forms of hepatitis. It can be passed via blood or bodily fluids, like saliva, sweat or semen. Hepatitis B can cause advanced liver damage throughout a child’s life.
Hepatitis B can be prevented with a three-part vaccine typically administered at the hospital following the child’s birth, as well as during the child’s one month and six-month well-visit checkups. Newborns with infected mothers will be given the hepatitis B vaccine and a dose of immunoglobulins (antibodies) within 12 hours of birth.
Children with hepatitis B typically contract the virus from:
- Their mother – if the child’s mother has hepatitis B, it can be transferred to the infant during birth.
- Blood, saliva or tears – gets into a child’s body via the eyes, mouth or broken skin after coming in contact with bodily fluids.
- Needle puncture – if a child is punctured by a needle used by an infected person, they can become infected.
- Personal items – using an infected person’s toothbrush or nail clippers can spread the virus.
- Unprotected sex – those who have not been vaccinated for hepatitis B can get the virus from unprotected sex.
- Acute (recently infected) – Children with acute hepatitis B can potentially fight off the virus without lasting health problems; however, if the child doesn’t clear the virus after six months, it becomes chronic.
- Chronic (the infection has lasted more than six months) – Children with chronic hepatitis B can be either lifetime carriers of the virus or continue living with their active infection.
Children with hepatitis B can develop symptoms up to four months after they are infected with the virus. When the virus is present, your child is contagious.
Symptoms rarely appear in children under the age of 5. Children older than 5 with hepatitis B generally display very few symptoms. However, the main symptoms seen with acute Hepatitis B include:
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Muscle pain
- Urine that is dark in color
Children with chronic Hepatitis B – either as a carrier or as an active infection – rarely have symptoms.