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The Hepatitis A Vaccine and Your Child


If you have a young child, you're likely attending regular doctors visits to ensure he or she is healthy and on par with age-related developmental milestones. Your pediatrician is looking into the child's nutrition, mobility and cognitive learning. He or she will also administer necessary preventative shots. One of those is the hepatitis A vaccine. Read on to learn about it.

What is hepatitis? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. HAV, as it is often called, can pass from person to person through contact with feces - like if someone uses the restroom and does not wash his or her hands. The disease can also be contracted from contaminated water, food or other objects. Symptoms of HAV range from jaundice to diarrhea and stomach pain, nausea, fatigue, fever, disinterest in food or vomiting. Children with HAV may not show symptoms, but infected individuals who do have signs often see them from two to six weeks after being exposed to an infected source. The symptoms may last from two to six months and can cause those with the disease to be too sick to work. Older individuals are especially at risk of serious complications or death when infected with HAV - particularly those who have other liver diseases as well.

"Children ages 1-2 should receive this two-dose vaccine."

The hepatitis A vaccine

The CDC recommends that individuals who are ages one to two should receive the two-dose vaccine. The two shots provide a lifetime of protection when administered within six months of one another. Children who are not vaccinated with the Hepatitis A immunization at this age may receive it later on. Individuals who travel to countries with higher rates of HAV should get this vaccine, as well as people who use illegal drugs, take clotting-factor concentrates, have same sex relationships with men or who are in contact with HAV through research or infected animals. People who are adopted from places with high HAV rates are also at an increased likelihood of passing the disease on to those surrounding them, so anyone who has adopted from infected regions should be vaccinated.

Vaccine risks

All shots come with the possibility of side effects. After receiving the hepatitis A vaccine, your child may be sore at the site of the injection, have a low-grade fever or headache or feel tired. These symptoms are nothing to worry about and should go away within a day or two. Allergic reactions, extensive shoulder pain or fainting may require immediate medical attention. Contact the physician who administered the shot if your child shows these possibly dangerous side effects.

There are some cases in which individuals should not receive this vaccine, such as if the person is sick or has had a severe allergic reaction to similar immunizations in the past. Your child's doctor will determine the risk factors involved in your family before administering it if necessary.

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