Hepatitis B: What Parents Need to Know

Hepatitis B: What Parents Need to Know

Thursday, February 22, 2018

With three doses of vaccine, your child can be protected from Hepatitis B for a lifetime.

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver, caused by a virus. It can lead to permanent liver illness, scarring and cancer. Anyone can get infected with the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and nearly 1 million people in the US are living with a lifelong HBV infection.

The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is through vaccination. The vaccine is considered very safe, and no serious reactions have been linked to it. The vaccine is much safer than the disease.

HBV is spread through blood and body fluids such as during birth, by sharing personal items (razor, toothbrush), unprotected sex, and sharing needles. You may feel your baby will not get infected in any of these ways however; people with HBV can pass it to others who aren't protected. Immunizing your child against this virus will protect her now and when she is older and exposed to more people.

Some facts about Hepatitis B from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • One-third of people who are infected with HBV in the United States don't know how they got it.
  • Some people with HBV don’t even know they are infected.
  • A person, especially a child, with HBV may not feel or look sick.
  • Nearly half of the 5,000-plus adult Americans who die from Hepatitis B each year caught their infection during childhood.

To be fully protected, children must have all three doses of the HPV vaccine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns get the first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital, within 24 hours of being born, unless the mother tested positive for HBV; in this case, the baby should be vaccinated within 12 hours of birth. The second dose is recommended at 1 to 2 months old, and the third between 6 and 18 months old.

Parenting Tips BlogSMH Mother-Baby Discharge Facilitator and Lactation Consultant Sheera Thomas, RN, has been an OB nurse for more than 20 years. She is an internationally board-certified lactation consultant, a certified childbirth educator, and—perhaps her most demanding role—a mother of four.