Hepatitis A Symptoms

Hepatitis A can make you feel like you have the flu. The liver infection is passed when:

  • An infected person’s stool comes into contact with your food, water, or skin.
  • You have sex with someone who has the infection or you otherwise are in close contact with him.
  • You eat or drink something that has the virus in it.

The best way to cut your risk of getting sick is to wash your hands:

  • Before you eat
  • After you use the bathroom or handle a dirty diaper

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

You can get the first symptoms anytime between 15 and 50 days after you came in contact with the virus. But they usually show up between about 2 and 4 weeks later.

Most people with hepatitis A usually have sudden:

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

Several days later, some symptoms of liver problems can show up. You may have:

  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored bowel movements
  • Yellow skin (jaundice). It's less common in children under age 6.
  • Yellowing of the white part of your eyes
  • Pain in the upper right part of your belly
  • Itchy skin

If your child has hep A, he may also have:

  • Cold symptoms
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

If you're over age 50 or have a long-term liver disease, you may have a more severe case of the disease called fulminant hepatitis A infection. You could have symptoms like:

  • Spontaneous bleeding or easy bruising
  • Confusion and changes in alertness
  • Liver function that gets worse
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes that gets worse

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When Should I See a Doctor?

Make an appointment if you have any of the symptoms and you recently:

  • Traveled out of the country, especially if you went to Mexico, South America, Central America, or anywhere without good sanitation
  • Ate at a restaurant that reported a hepatitis A outbreak
  • Found out someone close to you, like a roommate or caregiver, was diagnosed with hepatitis A
  • Had sex with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Ate raw shellfish
  • Used illegal drugs

When you see your doctor, he may spot some more signs that you've got the disease. For instance, he might find that you have:

  • A swollen liver and spleen
  • Tenderness in the right upper side of your belly

Does Hepatitis A Always Cause Symptoms?

There's a lot of variety in how people feel when they have the disease. It's possible you might not have any symptoms. But people often feel and look sick. You might even need to go to the hospital.

Symptoms and complications are more common as you get older. Most children under age 6 with hep A don't have any.

How Long Does Hepatitis A Last?

How long it lasts can vary from person to person. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Mild hepatitis A may last 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Most people are much better within 3 weeks.
  • Young children who get symptoms usually get better within 2 months.

If you have a severe infection, it can cause problems for several months. You may need to stay in the hospital.

Some people have symptoms that can last more than 3 months or have problems that come and go for 3 to 9 months.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on November 14, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Traveler's Health: Hepatitis A," "Viral Hepatitis,"  Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public," "Hepatitis A Vaccine."

National Health Service: "Hepatitis A -- Complications."

Mandell, G.L., Bennett, J.E., Dolin, R., editors, Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th edition, Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, 2009.

Long, S.S., editor, Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 3rd edition, Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, 2008.

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases: "Hepatitis A Vaccine Recommendations."

Mayo Clinic: “Hepatitis A.”

UpToDate: “Hepatitis A virus infection in adults: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis.”

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