Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Hepatitis Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Hepatitis A Symptoms

Hepatitis A (hep A) is a viral infection of the liver that can make you feel like you have the flu.

You can catch hepatitis A if you come in close contact with someone who has it. The virus spreads easily among people who live together. It is common among young children, who can easily spread it to other people.

You may also get hepatitis A if you eat or drink something contaminated with the virus. Proper hand washing can help reduce your risk.

It is very contagious. Here is all you need to know about the symptoms of hepatitis A.

Does Hepatitis A Always Cause Symptoms?

Symptoms of hepatitis A vary and often depend on your age.

Some people do not have any noticeable symptoms. Often, however, people feel and look sick. Many need to be hospitalized.

Some people have changes in liver blood test results, and others do not.

If you do not have any symptoms, you are "asymptomatic." Most children under age 6 who have the virus do not have symptoms. Symptoms and complications of the disease are more common with increasing age.

Symptoms usually appear between two and four weeks after you have come in contact with the virus. However, the first symptoms may be seen anytime between 15 and 50 days.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

If symptoms occur, they can be vague and mimic the flu. Most people with hepatitis A usually have:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low-grade fever

Several days later, symptoms of liver problems will occur. You may have:

  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored bowel movements
  • Yellow skin (jaundice). This is less common in children under age 6.
  • Yellowing of the white part of the eyes (scleral icterus)
  • Stomach pain
  • Itchy skin

Children with hepatitis A may also have the following symptoms:

  • Cold symptoms
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

People over age 50 and those with chronic liver disease may have a more severe case of hepatitis A called fulminant hepatitis A infection. Symptoms can include:

  • Blood clotting problems
  • Confusion and changes in alertness
  • Liver function continues to get worse
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes that gets worse

Your doctor may find the following symptoms when they examine you:

  • Swollen liver
  • Swollen spleen
  • Tenderness in the right upper side of your belly

When Will Hepatitis A Symptoms Go Away?

How long symptoms last can vary from person to person. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

  • Mild hepatitis A may last one to two weeks.
  • Most patients are much better within three weeks.
  • Young children who develop symptoms usually get better within two months.
  • Severe infection can cause problems for several months. You may need to stay in the hospital.
  • Some patients can have protracted symptoms that can last more than three months or relapsing symptoms for three to nine months.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 22, 2012
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Hepatitus C virus
Slideshow
young couple
Article
 
Hepatitis Basics
Article
Hepatitis Prevent 10
Article
 
Hepatitis C Treatment
Article
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
liver illustration
Quiz
passport, pills and vaccine
Slideshow
 
Scientist looking in microscope
Slideshow
Fatty Liver Disease
Article
 
Digestive Diseases Liver Transplantation
Article
Picture Of The Liver
Image Collection