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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a liver infection that is spread in the poo of an infected person. Most people who get it get better within a few months.

Hepatitis A is not common in the UK but it is common in other parts of the world.

How you can get hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that spreads in poo.

The infection is more common in parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America.

You can get hepatitis A from:

  • drinking unclean water
  • eating food that's been washed or grown in unclean water
  • eating food that's been handled by an infected person
  • close physical contact with an infected person, including having sex and sharing needles to take drugs

How to prevent hepatitis A

Hepatitis A vaccination

Vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A vaccines are not routinely offered in the UK because the risk of getting infected is low.

You only need to get a vaccine if you are at high risk of catching or getting seriously ill from hepatitis A. For example:

  • you are travelling to a country where hepatitis A is common – you may need to pay for a hepatitis A vaccine for travel
  • you have recently been in close physical contact with someone with hepatitis A
  • you have long-term liver disease
  • you have a blood clotting disorder, such some people with haemophilia
  • you are a man who has sex with men
  • your job puts you at risk of infection – for example, you’re a healthcare worker or a sewage worker

Speak to your GP if you think you need a hepatitis A vaccine. If your job puts you at risk, your employer should organise your vaccination.

Information:

If you are travelling abroad, get advice from a travel clinic, GP, nurse, or pharmacist before you go.

Other ways to reduce your risk

You can also help prevent hepatitis A when travelling by:

  • washing your hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food
  • drinking bottled water
  • avoiding eating shellfish and uncooked fruit and vegetables
  • using a condom or dam when having sex

Check if you have hepatitis A

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include:

  • a high temperature
  • flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, headache, and muscle pains
  • feeling sick or being sick
  • pain in your upper tummy
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • pale yellow or pale grey poo
  • dark brown pee
  • itchy skin – you may also have a raised rash (hives)
  • yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Most children, and some adults, may have mild symptoms or no symptoms.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

You have symptoms of hepatitis A and:

  • you've recently travelled to a country where hepatitis A is common
  • you've recently been in close contact with someone with hepatitis A
  • you have a blood clotting disorder, such as haemophilia
  • you're a man who has sex with men
  • you've shared needles when taking drugs
  • your job puts you at risk of infection

Tell the GP that you think you might have hepatitis A.

Treatment for hepatitis A

Hepatitis A usually clears up on its own within 3 to 6 months.

Your doctor may offer you medicines to help with the symptoms, such as painkillers or medicines to stop you feeling sick or itchy.

A small number of people with hepatitis A may get liver problems. You may need blood tests to check your liver is working properly.

Things you can do if you have hepatitis A

There are some things you can do when you have hepatitis A to help ease the symptoms, and to stop infecting others.

How long you're infectious

You're usually infectious for either:

  • 7 days after yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) started
  • 7 days after your symptoms started, if you've not had jaundice

Do

  • limit contact with other people for 7 days after your symptoms started or 7 days after jaundice started (adults should stay off work and children should stay off from school or nursery)

  • rest and drink plenty of fluids

  • take painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol - ask your doctor for advice on how much paracetamol you should take because you may not be able to take a normal dose

  • keep your room well ventilated, wear loose-fitting clothing, and avoid hot baths and showers if you feel itchy

  • wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet

Don’t

  • do not drink alcohol

  • do not prepare food or drink for others

  • do not have sex without a condom or dam until you're no longer infectious

  • do not share needles with others

Page last reviewed: 24 October 2022
Next review due: 24 October 2025