Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Viral Hepatitis Symptoms and Diagnosis

What are the symptoms of viral hepatitis?

Just like adults, most children with viral hepatitis will typically not have symptoms. If they do, it is likely the liver disease has already advanced.

If your child has acute hepatitis (hepatitis A), they may have the following symptoms:

  • Yellow color in the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)

Most people with chronic hepatitis B and C do not have symptoms. Adults may feel tired (fatigued), but it is very uncommon for children with chronic hepatitis B or C to have symptoms.

How is viral hepatitis diagnosed?

Because people with viral hepatitis often do not have symptoms, your child’s doctor may use more than one way to make an accurate diagnosis.

To determine if your child has viral hepatitis, your Seattle Children’s doctor will:

  1. Ask you and your child questions: The doctor will ask you and your child questions about your child’s past health, any symptoms, your family’s health and your child’s contact with people infected with viral hepatitis.
  2. Take blood work: If the doctor thinks your child may have viral hepatitis, they will order a blood test to check the liver enzymes, called aminotransferases. Higher-than-normal liver enzyme levels may indicate that your child has viral hepatitis. Your child’s doctor may also test to see if there are viral antibodies in your child’s blood, which may mean the body is fighting against a viral infection such as viral hepatitis.
  3. Perform a liver biopsy: Your child’s doctor may perform a biopsy on your child’s liver (take a small sample of the liver tissue) to learn vital information that will help guide treatment. The team at Seattle Children’s performs liver biopsies on children under anesthesia.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with Seattle Children’s Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department, start by asking your child’s primary care doctor for a referral. If you have a referral, call 206-987-2521 to schedule your child’s appointment.