Children and infants can contract hepatitis B. Some children may recover without treatment and have no long-term effects, but for others it can turn into a lifelong infection.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection that results from a virus. It can be acute, lasting only a short time, or chronic, lasting for the rest of a child’s life.
Children under age 5 may not show any signs or symptoms of infection, but children older than 5 may experience symptoms such as fatigue, jaundice, nausea, and vomiting.
This article reviews how hepatitis B can affect children, its possible symptoms and causes, and more.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver.
According to the
In the same year, doctors reported
Children younger than 5 years often do not show symptoms of hepatitis B, while
A child can be a carrier of the virus even if they have no symptoms, which means they can pass the virus to others.
When symptoms occur, they often happen
Hepatitis B is contagious. Children can contract the virus through contact with the bodily fluids of people who have it, including blood and saliva.
Other common modes of transmission in children
- sharing of toothbrushes or other personal items
- having open cuts or sores
- chewing food for a baby
- touching surfaces or objects, as the virus can live on objects for 7 days or longer
Anyone who is carrying the virus can pass it to a baby or child.
Diagnosis requires blood tests. According to the
- hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)
- hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs)
- total hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc)
These tests can help a healthcare professional determine whether a child:
- has had a hepatitis B infection or vaccination and is immune
- is susceptible to a hepatitis B infection and should get a vaccination
- has an active acute or chronic hepatitis B infection
After diagnosing hepatitis B, a healthcare professional will refer a child for treatment. If the child is susceptible to hepatitis B, a healthcare professional will likely recommend that they get vaccinated.
Treatment will depend on the type of hepatitis B a child has.
If they have an acute infection, a healthcare professional
Children with chronic hepatitis B will likely need antiviral medications and continued monitoring for liver disease and cancer.
Hepatitis B is a preventable infection. The
A parent or guardian should follow the vaccination schedule from a pediatrician. The vaccination comes in three doses. A child will typically receive the first dose soon after birth, and a few months will pass before they receive each additional dose.
Vaccination is the most effective form of protection, but for those who have not received the vaccine, taking additional precautions can help prevent the spread of hepatitis B.
- not sharing personal items
- not chewing food for an infant
- using disinfectants to clean surfaces that may have had contact with blood or saliva
- keeping wounds and cuts covered
When a person with hepatitis B gives birth, healthcare professionals can administer hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and the hepatitis B vaccine to the child within 12 hours of birth to protect them from the infection.
Here are some frequently asked questions about hepatitis B in children.
Is hepatitis B curable in children?
Hepatitis B may clear in children within a few weeks, but about
How long does hepatitis B last in children?
Some children will have an acute infection that lasts a few weeks. Younger children and infants have the highest chance of developing a chronic, lifelong infection. This can lead to liver damage, liver failure, or liver cancer.
However, the Hepatitis B Foundation states that the infection does not typically affect a child’s growth and development. Many children with hepatitis B lead healthy lives and have a typical life expectancy.
Hepatitis B in children is generally a serious infection. Younger children have the
Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer. Treatment typically involves monitoring the child for liver damage and possibly using antiviral medications.
No specific treatments are available for acute hepatitis B infections, but a healthcare professional will help treat the symptoms.
A vaccination for hepatitis B can safely and effectively prevent infection. The CDC recommends that all infants and unvaccinated children receive a vaccination for hepatitis B.