If you have a young child who attends daycare or if you work as a childcare provider, you know how easily illness can spread. Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is easily spread in childcare settings. Learn more about hepatitis A and how it can be prevented.
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can cause:
Hepatitis A is often not serious, especially in young children. Symptoms can last for 2-6 months. In rare cases, the virus can cause liver failure and death. This is more common in people older than 50 years of age.
Hepatitis A is spread when the virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects or foods that have been contaminated by the stool of an infected person. In childcare settings, this can happen easily, especially when hands are not washed after changing a soiled diaper.
Young children can have hepatitis A but show only mild symptoms or none at all. Hepatitis A is much more likely to cause symptoms in adults and older children. Because of this, outbreaks of hepatitis A may not be discovered until caregivers begin to show symptoms.
Mild, flu-like symptoms are treated with rest, a balanced diet, and lots of fluids. If you or your child gets hepatitis A, talk to your doctor before taking any medications, including over-the-counter medications or supplements. Some medications, like acetaminophen, could damage the liver if taken while infected with hepatitis A.
If your child goes to daycare, you may be wondering how you can avoid hepatitis A. The best way to do this is to have your child vaccinated. The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children over 12 months of age and is almost completely protective against this infection.
Another way to prevent the spread of hepatitis A is by practicing good hand hygiene. In addition, follow these steps:
If your child is exposed to hepatitis A, take these steps to minimize symptoms and to prevent the virus from spreading to others:
Ask your child's doctor when they can safely return to daycare. Talk to the daycare center about their policy.
No parent ever likes to see their child sick. And working parents know how difficult it can be to find childcare at the last minute when your child cannot go to their usual daycare because of illness. Follow the tips above for good hand hygiene and make sure your daycare does, too!
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Hepatitis Foundation International
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Hepatitis A. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/vaccine-preventable-diseases/Pages/Hepatitis-A.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed July 27, 2017.
Hepatitis A FAQs for the public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm. Updated October 3, 2016. Accessed July 27, 2017.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114868/Hepatitis-A-virus-HAV-infection. Updated July 17, 2017. Accessed July 27, 2017.
Klevens RM, Miller JT, Iqbal K, et al. The evolving epidemiology of hepatitis A in the United States: Incidence and molecular epidemiology from population-based surveillance, 2005-2007. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(20):1811-1818.
Van Herck K, Jacquet JM, Van Damme P. Antibody persistence and immune memory in healthy adults following vaccination with a two-dose inactivated hepatitis A vaccine: Long-term follow-up at 15 years. J Med Virol. 2011;83(11):1885-1891.
Viral hepatitis: A through E and beyond. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/viral-hepatitis-a-through-e/pages/facts.aspx. Accessed July 27, 2017.
Last reviewed July 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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