Hepatitis B factsheet


Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis B virus is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids including:

  • blood
  • saliva
  • semen
  • fluid or mucus from the vagina.

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

  • unsterilised, shared or discarded needles in the community. 
  • piercings done with unsterilised tools 
  • sexual contact. 

The most common way that children are infected with hepatitis B is when the virus is passed on to a baby during pregnancy or birth. 

 Signs and symptoms

Hepatitis B infection usually does not cause any symptoms in children. Even though there are no symptoms, hepatitis B can cause advanced liver disease as your child gets older.

If there are symptoms, they may start slowly a few months after infection and can include:

  • loss of appetite
  • loss of energy
  • stomach pain around the liver, on the upper right side
  • vomiting
  • fever and rash
  • jaundice - yellow skin and eyes.
  • dark urine and pale or white poo
  • painful or swollen joints.

Symptoms can be worse in children with lower immune systems or liver disease. Your child is considered infectious with hepatitis B:

  • up to 3 months before they show any symptoms
  • until the virus has been cleared from their body or is managed with medication.


Lack of symptoms in children can make hepatitis B difficult to diagnose. Your child’s doctor will be able to make a diagnosis based on any symptoms that do show and blood tests.

Hepatitis B tests should be done for children and teenagers who:

  • are born to a mother with hepatitis B
  • have symptoms of hepatitis or have unexplained abnormal liver tests
  • have come into contact with a dirty or used needle
  • have had sexual contact.


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.

Children who have the virus longer than six months can develop chronic hepatitis B.

Chronic hepatitis B can put your child at risk of liver scarring, liver failure and liver cancer.

Children with chronic hepatitis B will need to:

  • have general health and liver checks every 6-12 months
  • take anti-viral medicines
  • eat a healthy diet and exercise to keep their liver healthy
  • avoid drinking alcohol and taking drugs.



The best way to prevent your child from contracting hepatitis B is to have them immunised. Protection against hepatitis B is available free-of-charge under the National Immunisation Program Schedule at the following ages:

  • birth
  • 6-8 weeks
  • 4 months
  • 6 months.

Side effects of the vaccine can include:

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

Immunisation cannot cure someone who is already infected with the hepatitis B virus.

If your child is diagnosed with hepatitis B, your family should get tested and get the immunisation.

Children with hepatitis B should also receive the hepatitis A immunisation.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

If you have hepatitis B and are pregnant, you can speak to your doctor about medicine that can reduce the chance of passing the virus on to your baby. Your baby will also get a special injection of antibodies at birth alongside the hepatitis B immunisation.

Your baby should then be tested for hepatis B 3 months after their final hepatitis B immunisation.

You can safely breastfeed your infant even if you have hepatitis B.

If you have hepatitis B, your baby will receive an injection of hepatitis B immunoglobulin alongside the hepatitis b immunisation at birth. 95% of babies born to mothers with hepatitis B will not become infected if they have these immunisations at birth.

Avoid breastfeeding and speak to your doctor as soon as possible if your nipples are cracked and/or bleeding and you have hepatitis B.

Blood awareness and safety

If your child has hepatitis B, you and your family should practise blood awareness. This means being careful around your child’s blood, for example when you treat a wound or bite, and knowing how to manage bleeding safely.

Tips for blood awareness and safety include:

  • not sharing things like toothbrushes and razors with others
  • using disposable gloves when cleaning up any blood or bodily fluids
  • cleaning spills that involve body fluids with paper towel before cleaning with detergent and cold water or bleach.

You are not required by law to inform schools and day care that your child has hepatitis B. Schools and day care should always practise standard precautions when dealing with blood and body fluids from any child in their care. This means that they should treat every child’s bodily fluid like it is infectious.

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 Monday 18th March 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