Hepatitis B - Symptoms 

Symptoms of hepatitis B 

Most people remain healthy without any symptoms while they fight off the virus. Some will not even know they have been infected.

However, until the virus has been cleared from their body, they can pass it onto others.

If there are any symptoms, they will develop on average 60-90 days after exposure to the virus.

Common symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, general aches and pains, headaches and a high temperature of or above 38C (100.4F)
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • feeling sick
  • being sick
  • diarrhoea
  • pain in your upper right-hand side
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Symptoms will usually pass within one-to-three months.

Chronic hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is said to be chronic when you have been infected for longer than six months.

The symptoms are usually much milder and tend to come and go. In many cases, people with chronic hepatitis B infection will not experience any noticeable symptoms.

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis B may include:

  • feeling tired all the time (fatigue)
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling sick
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle and joint pains
  • itchy skin

When to seek medical advice

Always make an appointment to see your GP if you have unusual symptoms that persist for more than a few days.

When to seek immediate medical advice

If you suspect that you have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, seek immediate medical advice. It is possible to prevent infection with treatment but to be most effective it should be given in the first 48 hours after exposure (although it can sometimes be effective up to a week after exposure).

Phone your GP as soon as possible. If this is not possible, telephone NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or your local out-of-hours service for advice.

Page last reviewed: 15/11/2011

Next review due: 15/11/2013

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Jaundice

Jaundice is when your 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). 

Jaundice occurs in about 10% of younger children and 30%–50% of adults with hepatitis B.

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