The signs of hepatitis B in children vary by the length of time the infection is present. Early stage indications can range from a general feeling of discomfort to flu-like symptoms. As the infection progresses, signs of issues with the liver will most likely begin to manifest. This stage is typically when hepatitis B is diagnosed, usually with a round of tests that determine liver damage and the presence of hepatitis B in children; these tests are the most conclusive signs of hepatitis B.
Some children may experience little to no early symptoms of hepatitis B, also known as serum hepatitis. For those that do, flu-like symptoms such as aching, diarrhea, and a low- to mid-grade fever may be present. A child may also feel nauseous as well as experience bouts of vomiting. These stomach issues can lead to a noticeable decrease in appetite that typically goes beyond the usual picky eating of young children.
As hepatitis B progresses, the liver begins to develop issues. In an attempt to fight off the infection, a child's body will release antibodies. These antibodies, however, can cause the liver to become inflamed. The inflammation of the liver results in too much bilirubin, the pigment in bile, to build up in the blood. This causes jaundice, characterized by the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, and is one of the most common signs of hepatitis B in children.
The issues that the later stages of hepatitis B causes with the liver can also lead to extremely dark urine, typically brown in color. A pale stool, most commonly gray or white in color, may also be an indication of hepatitis B in children. A child may also have a permanent bitter taste in the mouth or extremely bad breath despite proper dental hygiene. In many cases, the infection can cause the liver to become so inflamed that the child experiences severe abdominal pain directly below the right or left side of the ribs.
Hepatitis B in children is diagnosed through a series of blood tests. The virus that causes the infection typically only stays in a child's system for six months. Symptoms may remain until treatment is provided, however. The two most common tests to identify hepatitis B in children are the hepatitis B surface antigen test, which can reveal a current infection, and the antibody to hepatitis B core antigen test, which determines whether a child has had a recent hepatitis B infection. These tests can typically provide a definitive diagnosis of hepatitis B in children.