Hepatitis A - Symptoms 

Symptoms of hepatitis A 

It takes between 2-6 weeks for symptoms of hepatitis A to develop after coming into contact with the virus (the incubation period); the average incubation period is around four weeks.

Initial symptoms of hepatitis A are similar to flu and include:

  • loss of appetite
  • feeling sick
  • being sick
  • feeling tired all the time (fatigue)
  • low grade fever – usually no higher than 39.5C (103.1F)
  • joint pain
  • mild headache
  • a general feeling of being unwell

If you smoke you may find you loose your taste for tobacco during this time.

Usually around 10 days after initial symptoms begin you will probably experience symptoms directly related to your liver (known as the icteric phase). These include:

  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • darkening of your urine
  • your stools become paler
  • itchiness 

Less common symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain
  • skin rash
  • persistent joint pain

In addition your liver may be swollen.

It is likely you will completely recover within a couple of months, although a small number of people have a return of symptoms (relapses) and in a small number of cases, symptoms may persist for up to six months.

Once you have recovered from hepatitis A, you are normally immune from it and should never catch the virus again.

When to seek medical advice

You should always contact your GP if you think you have hepatitis A - particularly in the following circumstances:

  • you have recently travelled to a part of the world known to have high rates of hepatitis A, such as Africa, India or Pakistan (remember the incubation period can be up to six weeks so it may have been a couple of months since your trip)
  • you develop jaundice

While hepatitis A is not usually a serious illness it is important to get it properly diagnosed in case your symptoms are due to a more serious condition such as hepatitis C (a more serious type of viral infection) or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).

Also, it may be necessary to test your friends, family and any sexual partners in case you have spread the infection to them.

Page last reviewed: 21/03/2012

Next review due: 21/03/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

WillR said on 22 December 2012

Although informative, a couple of the symptoms were omitted. See the page below


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Jaundice is when the skin and the whites of the eyes become yellow.

It occurs because your damaged liver is unable to remove bilirubin, a yellow substance in the blood that is a by-product of red blood cells. Bilirubin may also turn your urine very dark, and you may have pale stools (faeces).

Travel illnesses and vaccinations

Travel vaccinations and avoiding infectious diseases abroad, including hepatitis A, malaria, yellow fever and polio