Hepatitis A factsheet


Hepatitis A is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis A virus spread by faecal-oral transfer.

This is when traces of poo from a person with the virus are passed into the mouth through water, food and contact with hands and objects.

Children and teenagers can be at risk of getting hepatitis A from:

  • eating contaminated raw, frozen, or undercooked food
  • drinking contaminated water
  • touching the soiled nappies, linen or towels of a person who has the virus
  • sharing personal items with a person who has the virus
  • sexual contact.

 Signs and symptoms

Hepatitis A infection usually does not cause any symptoms in young children. They can still spread the virus even if they do not have any symptoms.

If there are symptoms, they can start 1-2 months after infection and can include:

Symptoms can be worse in children with lower immune systems or liver disease.

Your child is considered infectious with hepatitis A:

  • two weeks before they show any symptoms
  • one week after they develop jaundice
  • two weeks after symptoms start if there is no jaundice.

Symptoms can continue for several weeks, and the virus can be passed on through your child’s poo for longer periods.


Tests used to diagnose hepatitis A include:

  • medical history, including immunisation status and any recent travel
  • physical examination
  • blood test.


Most children will recover from the virus within weeks or months.

Treatment is focussed on relieving symptoms, reducing the spread, and preventing complications. Treatment should include:

  • rest
  • eating small meals more often
  • drinking fluids
  • reviewing medications that affect the liver with your child's doctor 
  • avoiding alcohol.

Speak to your child’s doctor If your child has been in contact with someone with hepatitis A and they have not been immunised or have not had a previous hepatitis A infection.


Hepatitis A vaccine

The hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to protect your child against infection. It is recommended for children:

  • who are older than 12 months, travelling to places where hepatitis A is common
  • have been in close contact with an infected person
  • with developmental disabilities
  • with liver disease or who have had a liver transplant.

It is also recommended for teenagers and young people who:

  • Work in areas at increased risk of infection:
    • plumbers and sewage workers
    • people who work with children
    • people who work with people with developmental disabilities
  • inject drugs
  • have anal sex
  • are inmates of prisons or juvenile justice settings.

Protection against hepatitis A is available free-of-charge under the National Immunisation Program Schedule for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (between 12 and 24 months) who live in high-risk areas.

The hepatitis A vaccine is given as multiple injections over a six to 12-month period.

Children who are otherwise healthy and ages over 12 years old will have:

  • two doses of a hepatitis A vaccine if given on its own
  • three doses if the hepatitis A and B vaccines are combined.

Your child can complete any missed doses, even if the recommended time frame has passed. They do not need to start the vaccine course again.

If your child is in close contact with someone who has hepatitis A and they have not been vaccinated, they should do this as soon as possible.

An injection of normal human immunoglobulin can be used instead of the hepatitis A vaccine for children who have had contact with hepatitis A and are:

  • under 12 months old
  • have a weakened immune system.

Side effects of the vaccine can include:

  • pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
  • low-grade temperature or fever
  • mild headache.

Reducing the risk of hepatitis A

Practising good hygiene is important for reducing the risk of contracting and spreading hepatitis A.

You can do this by supporting your child to:

  • wash their hands with soap and hot running water before and after:
    • handling food
    • going to the toilet
    • handling soiled nappies
    • touching anal area of another person, for example changing a nappy or wiping a bottom.
  • Using a clean towel or disposable paper towel to dry hands after washing
  • cleaning bathrooms and toilets often, paying attention to toilet seats, handles, taps and nappy change tables.

Teenagers and young people who are sexually active should:

  • use barrier protection like condoms and dams when having sex (including digital, oral, anal, and vaginal) 
  • avoid having sex with someone who is infected with the hepatitis A virus
  • see their local sexual health clinic or doctor for information and advice about safe sex and testing.

Hepatitis A and travel

The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for people travelling to countries and areas where there are lower levels of cleanliness and less access to clean drinking water. Speak to your doctor about travel vaccines before leaving the country.

While travelling, you should also try to:

  • drink bottled water with an unbroken seal
  • avoid drinks that are unpackaged or contain ice
  • avoid eating raw food such as fruit or salad
  • avoid uncooked foods, particularly vegetables and fruit that you have not peeled, prepared, or boiled yourself
  • avoid raw or undercooked meat and fish
  • make sure cooked food is hot and eat it right away
  • avoid shellfish and unpasteurised dairy products
  • avoid eating food from street vendors.

When outdoors, always boil your drinking water if it comes from an untreated source, like a river.

What to do if you get hepatitis A

If you, your child, or someone close to you contracts hepatitis A, it will be important to stop:

  • preparing food and drink for others
  • sharing eating and drinking utensils
  • sharing linens and towels.

Children and teenagers who have hepatitis A should check with their doctor before returning to work or school.

Resources and more information

Hepatitis NSW

Hepatitis NSW

Provides resources and support contacts for people with Hepatitis.
Related Links
Hepatitis Australia

Hepatitis Australia

A community organisation formed to enable and empower everyone in Australia to live free from the impact of viral hepatitis.
Related Links
National Hepatitis Infoline

National Hepatitis Infoline

Phone1800 437 222
Provides confidential, free and localised viral hepatitis information and support services.
Related Links
Last updated Wednesday 21st February 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024