Advice for Parents
Parents face a whole host of issues when making the decision to raise children. A child with hepatitis B presents new challenges, but they are manageable if you are well informed and use common sense.
The Hepatitis B Foundation has compiled a list of useful guidelines that may be helpful. Since each family is unique, and each community is different, please adjust your decisions accordingly.
Avoid the Spread of Hepatitis B
All parents, siblings, and other household members should be vaccinated. Extended family members, childcare providers, family, friends, and others should consider vaccination if they have, frequent and close contact with your child.
Know the Facts
If people are unfamiliar with hepatitis B, there is a possibility they will become alarmed when told your child has chronic hepatitis B. The key to reducing people's anxiety is to give them clear, simple facts.
- Hepatitis B is not transmitted casually. It cannot be spread through the sharing of toys, sneezing, coughing, spitting, or hugging.
- Hepatitis B is spread through blood and infected bodily fluids. Therefore, it could be spread through bites and scratches that result in broken skin.
- Inform people that there is a safe hepatitis B vaccine and that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants and children up to age 18 years be vaccinated.
Know the Risk
In making the decision about telling others, be sure to consider whether your child is at high or low risk for exposing others to his or her blood (e.g. consider age, frequency of accidents, nosebleeds, biting, etc.). Consider the degree of risk a person has for exposure (frequent vs. occasional contact), and whether a person or child may have already been vaccinated.
Although there is no specific law that addresses hepatitis B, the Americans with Disabilities Act (1991) is a federal law that may protect children and adults with hepatitis B from discrimination.
Use common sense in deciding who you should tell about your child's hepatitis B. Once you tell, you can't take it back. So take your time and choose wisely as you decide who can be trusted with this information.
Fortunately, most children are now vaccinated against hepatitis B, so the risk of your child infecting others is reduced. Most states also require the hepatitis B vaccine for school entry. Although you do not necessarily have a "duty" to inform people of your child's hepatitis B, there may be situations where it is wise to disclose your child's diagnosis.
If possible, give literature to reinforce your facts. The Hepatitis B Foundation publishes free educational literature that you can request to give other parents, teachers, or school nurses. Visit Our Resources.
What Should You Say?
Know your facts, use simple explanations, and remain calm. Emphasize that your child is healthy and poses no risk if blood accidents are handled carefully. Remind people (and health care providers) that blood is a two-way street. Other children may have unknown infections that can be spread to your child, therefore, the blood of all children should be handled carefully.
In addition, the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants and children up to 18 years. Therefore, most children should already be vaccinated and protected against hepatitis B.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone use "universal precautions" for any accident. This means that the blood and bodily fluids of all adults and children should be treated as if it is potentially infectious.
Universal precautions (or "standard precautions") should be followed for ALL accidents, not just the blood of those with known chronic hepatitis B infection.
Cleaning Up Blood Spills
Avoid direct contact with blood, vomit, diarrhea and other bodily secretions, and ensure that others will not come into contact with them either.
- Clean all spills with a diluted solution of bleach (mix one part fresh household bleach with nine parts water).
- Discard cleaning materials into a plastic bag and tie securely. Dispose of properly in the garbage can.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
PKIDs Pediatric Hepatitis Report
Additional information for parents can be found in the Pediatric Hepatitis Report, which is the first-ever, comprehensive resource about children living with hepatitis B and C. Information about hepatitis B, from transmission to diagnosis, to treatment and civil rights protections is included in this excellent publication. It is published by the national non-profit PKIDs (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases).