Get to Know Hepatitis in Children Here!

Although the disease is more common in adults, hepatitis in children can also occur. Various things can cause children to develop hepatitis, from viral infections to certain medical conditions.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. This condition can happen to anyone, including children aged 1 month to 16 years. Hepatitis, both hepatitis in children and adults, can be divided into chronic hepatitis and acute hepatitis.

In chronic hepatitis, inflammation of the liver progresses slowly, possibly up to 6 months, with mild to moderate symptoms. While in acute hepatitis, inflammation occurs suddenly and lasts for a short time.

In April 2022, cases of hepatitis in children were reported to be vigilant. The reason is that cases of severe acute hepatitis in these children spread relatively quickly. In fact, until May 2022, there are already 3 pediatric patients with suspected severe acute hepatitis in Indonesia.

Causes of Hepatitis in Children

The causes of hepatitis in children are basically the same as the causes of hepatitis in adults, namely:

Viral infections

There are various types of hepatitis due to viral infections, namely hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. However, hepatitis A is the most common type of hepatitis in children.

The disease is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) which enters the body through food or drink that is contaminated with the virus or is unhygienic.

Hepatitis transmission may also occur when a child holds objects, such as toys, that are contaminated with the hepatitis virus, and puts his or her hands in his or her mouth.

The hepatitis A virus can spread through various media, such as:

1. Feses
2. Air
3. Food that is not washed, processed, and cooked to maturity
4. Frequently touched objects or surfaces, such as toilet door handles, especially in public facilities

Once inside the body, the virus will spread through the bloodstream and to the liver organs. In these organs, the virus then causes inflammation and swelling.

In addition to the hepatitis virus, hepatitis in children can also be caused by cytomegalovirus, enterovirus, herpes simplex virus, and rubella.

In the hotly debated case recently, SARS-CoV-2 virus and adenovirus were detected in pediatric patients with acute hepatitis. However, further research is still needed to determine whether the two viruses are actually causing the increase in cases of mysterious acute hepatitis.

Certain health conditions

In addition to being caused by a virus, hepatitis in children can also be caused by certain medical conditions, one of which is an autoimmune disease. In children with autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system considers that the liver organ is a threat so that healthy cells in those organs need to be attacked.

Not only viral infections and diseases, the use of certain drugs without a doctor’s supervision is also known to cause hepatitis in children.

Symptoms of Hepatitis in Children

Hepatitis in children does not always show symptoms. However, parents need to be vigilant if the child shows symptoms of hepatitis. Symptoms usually appear 2–4 weeks after the virus enters the body.

Here are the various symptoms of hepatitis in children:

1. No appetite
2. Fever
3. Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right area
4. Not feeling well
5. The skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow (jaundice)
6. Urine is as dark as tea
7. Pale stools or feces
8. Nausea and vomiting
9. The stomach feels uncomfortable and swollen

To confirm hepatitis in a child, the doctor will perform a physical examination accompanied by several supporting examinations, such as blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, and liver biopsy.

Treatment of Hepatitis in Children

Treatment of hepatitis in children will be tailored to the severity, symptoms, age, and general health condition of the child. The main purpose of this treatment is to stop liver damage and alleviate the complaints experienced by children.

Some treatments that can be given by a doctor include giving medications to treat the virus or other causes of hepatitis in children and medications to reduce the fever or symptoms felt. In addition, make sure the child gets enough rest and eats nutritious, clean, and cooked food.

Hospital treatment may be recommended if the child’s hepatitis is severe or if the child needs a liver transplant.

Hepatitis Prevention Measures in Children

To prevent hepatitis in children, parents are urged to increase vigilance in the following ways:

1. Teach and remind children to wash their hands with soap and water
2. Give food and drinks that have been cooked until completely cooked
3. Avoid sharing the use of children’s cutlery with others
4. Avoid direct contact of children with sick people
5. Provide healthy and balanced nutrition to children
6. Get hepatitis vaccination for children
7. Implement health protocols, such as wearing masks, maintaining distance, and reducing mobility

If you find symptoms of hepatitis in a child, do not hesitate to see a doctor so that the cause can be identified and given appropriate treatment.

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