First, it is important to know whether you have hepatitis B. If you are at risk based on the risk factors for this disease, you should be tested for hepatitis B.
If you are infected, you can pass the virus to others. It is important to take certain precautions to prevent the spread of this disease.
Practice safe sex: Regular sexual partners, spouses, children, and those living in close household contact should be tested for hepatitis B and vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine. Protect occasional sexual partners by using condoms. Explain hepatitis B and its serious consequences to sexually active teens. Make sure they are vaccinated and that they understand the need for condoms.
Protect infants: If you are pregnant, make sure you are screened for hepatitis B. You may be infected and have no symptoms. However, your baby may suffer lifelong consequences, since infection at birth nearly always leads to chronic infection. Babies born to women who are infected with hepatitis B must be vaccinated in the delivery room and given special HBV antibodies. If you have hepatitis B, make sure your newborn is vaccinated and receives these antibodies.
Immunize children: All children and teens should receive the hepatitis B vaccine as part of their regular childhood immunizations. Local county health departments may offer hepatitis B vaccine free to infants and children.
Prevent blood exchanges: Keep all cuts covered, and avoid sharing any sharp instruments such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, earrings, or any household item where small amounts of blood can be exchanged. Hepatitis B is not transmitted casually or spread through sneezing, coughing, hugging or eating food prepared by someone who is infected with the virus.
This section contains more information on how people infected with hepatitis B can protect their health.
To lessen the toll that a chronic infection will take on your overall well-being, consider following these steps:
Watch your diet: Avoid alcohol, because alcohol taxes the liver. It can further inflame a liver inflamed with the hepatitis B virus. There is no special diet for people who have chronic hepatitis B, but a healthy, well-balanced one that is low fat and includes plenty of vegetables is recommended. Do not eat raw shellfish; it may contain hepatitis A or bacteria that are also harmful to your liver.
Talk to your physician: Seek a green light before taking any over-the-counter medication, vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies. Most drugs and herbal supplements are metabolized in the liver, so they can damage a liver already inflamed with hepatitis B. Some nonprescription medications, such as acetaminophen, have been shown to be toxic to the liver, even among those who are free of the hepatitis B virus.
Reduce stress: It's important to talk to friends and loved ones about the difficulties the illness is causing you. Consider using other stress reduction techniques, such as meditation and relaxation exercises. While some people with acute hepatitis B have no symptoms, others experience serious fatigue. A minority of individuals may experience symptoms for six months or longer. To prevent fatigue from becoming overwhelming, do only essential activities each day and spread the optional ones throughout the week.
Finally, be sure to have regular screenings for liver cancer and other serious complications.
Last reviewed on 7/23/09
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