Hepatitis A Symptoms: When Are They Serious?

Updated in June 2022

Most times, a Hepatitis A infection does not bring about any signs or symptoms. It is often only identified after completing a blood test. 

However, in other cases, signs and symptoms can start to appear 15 to 40 days after infection. They can be mild and similar to a flu, like headache and general malaise. 

In more severe cases in which there is major liver inflammation, the following symptoms can emerge: 

  1. Yellow eyes and skin 
  2. Light-colored or yellow stools
  3. Dark urine 
  4. Constant low-grade fever 
  5. Upper right abdominal pain
  6. Loss of appetite
  7. Fatiguing easily with no apparent reason 
  8. Bloating
  9. Frequent nausea and dizziness 
  10. Joint pain

Normally, any of these symptoms disappear within a period of 6 month. During this period, it is also possible for the illness to manifest in cycles, alternating between periods of flare-ups and periods of remission, until it completely resolves. 

Because the symptoms of various hepatitis infections can be similar, you should see your family doctor or a liver specialist to complete testing and to confirm whether liver inflammation is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Once confirmed, the doctor can initiate the most appropriate treatment. 

Symptoms quiz

If you are unsure whether your symptoms a related to hepatitis A, report your symptoms below to assess your risk of infection

  1. 1. Dor na região superior direita da barriga
  2. 2. Cor amarelada nos olhos ou na pele
  3. 3. Fezes amareladas, cinzentas ou esbranquiçadas
  4. 4. Urina escura
  5. 5. Febre baixa constante
  6. 6. Dor nas articulações
  7. 7. Perda de apetite
  8. 8. Enjoos ou tonturas frequentes
  9. 9. Cansaço fácil e sem razão aparente
  10. 10. Barriga inchada

When it is serious 

In most cases, people with this type of hepatitis do not experience serious liver damage, as it disappears after a few months. In more rare cases, however, liver damage can continue to increase and even lead to organ failure. These people will often have the following symptoms: 

  • Sudden and intense vomiting 
  • Easy bruising or bleeding 
  • Increased irritability
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Dizziness or confusion

If any of these symptoms emerge, proceed immediately to the hospital for a liver function assessment and to start treatment. Treatment usually involves lifestyle changes, like the reduction of salt and protein in the diet. 

Transmission & prevention

Transmission of the hepatitis A virus, or HAV, is usually through the fecal-oral route, which usually happens through contaminated food or water. Therefore, to prevent transmission, it is important to perform hand hygiene, to drink filtered water, and to ensure you are living or vacationing in hygienic conditions with basic sanitation. Another way to prevent HAV is through vaccination. 

It is important for people with hepatitis A to prevent coming in close contact with other people up to 1 week after symptom onset, as the virus is easily transmitted at this stage. To decrease your risk of transmission, you should follow the treatment prescribed by your doctor and maintain an appropriate diet.