Hepatitis B :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis (hep-a-TIE-tis) is an inflammation of the liver. Usually it is caused by infections or side effects of medications. It is sometimes called “yellow jaundice” because the liver injury from hepatitis may cause an increase in bilirubin, a chemical in the blood that can cause the skin to turn yellow.

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus found in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. It is spread mainly through sexual activity or exposure to blood. The virus enters the body through a cut, a scraped area of skin or through mucous membranes (like the lining of the mouth). It can be passed from an infected mother to her child before or during birth. It can be spread through a blood transfusion, but this is rare because donated blood is tested for hepatitis B. The hepatitis B virus can live in a person for his or her whole life. A blood test can show if the virus is present.

How to Help Stop the Spread of Hepatitis B

Picture 1 - Good hand washing is very important!
Image of hand washing

There are several things you can do to help stop the spread of this disease. Please follow these instructions until your doctor tells you the child with hepatitis is completely well:

  • Good hand washing by all family members must be done.  Hands should be washed, using soap and warm water, before meals, after using the bathroom and before preparing or serving food.  Also wash your hands any time you may have come in contact with the hepatitis B virus after caring for your child.
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling blood (such as helping to stop a nosebleed or bandaging a cut).  Wash your hands after removing the gloves.
  • Hepatitis B can be spread by sexual activity.  Not having sex (abstinence) is the most effective way to keep Hepatitis B from being spread sexually.  If an infected person has sex, a condom should be used every time. Condoms should be used until the doctor says there is no longer any danger of spreading the disease.  (Refer to the Helping Hand: Condoms, HH-IV-46.)
  • All members of your family should receive hepatitis B vaccine if they are not already infected.

Good Nutrition and Rest

Picture 2 - The Food Pyramid
Image of the food pyramid
  • All family members should eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods from the Food Pyramid. (Picture 2).
  • All ill family members should get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Young children who are ill should take naps during the day when possible.

Medical Care

  • Your doctor may give injections (special immune globulin and vaccine) to all family members who have been exposed to hepatitis.  These medicines will prevent hepatitis.  
  • Someone from the Health Department may visit your home to help you control this disease.  They will ask several questions and will answer any questions you may have.
  • It is very important to keep all follow-up appointments with the doctor.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child's doctor or the Primary Care Clinic at (614) 722-5750 if any of the following occurs:

  • If the child does not feel hungry or want to eat.
  • If fever is over 99.6 degrees F for more than 2 days.
  • If your child has abdominal discomfort (stomachache).
  • If your child is vomiting (throwing up) more than 2 times in an hour.
  • If your child's skin or the white part of the eyes turns yellow.
  • If your child is overly tired for more than 2 days.

Chronic (Long Term) Infection

Following infection with Hepatitis B, most people recover. The virus is no longer in the blood or other body fluids. However, some people may not get rid of the Hepatitis B virus once they have been infected. These people are chronically infected and are sometimes called chronic carriers. A blood test can show if someone has been infected with Hepatitis B and if they are immune to Hepatitis B from either a past infection or from the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Return To School Or Child Care

  • Your child may return to school or childcare if he or she is feeling well.
  • A child, who scratches, bites or "gets into fights”; has overall skin condition or a bleeding problem, should probably not attend child care while he has hepatitis. The doctor can help you make this decision.
  • Call your child's doctor to find out when your child may return to school or child care, if you have any questions about this.

If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse, or call _________________.

Hepatitis B (PDF)

HH-I-43  10/76, Revised  8/02  Copyright 1976-2002, Nationwide Children’s Hospital