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.
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.
Important: 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
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
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