|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Lethargy and Hepatitis A

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: Our son just had hepatitis A. He had classic symptoms of being ill. He is improved and doing well. My question is, for a few months now he appears to be lethargic, very unmotivated, and he is in an honors program. We considered taking him for a physical, but then the hepatitis came along and we mentioned it to the doctor, but got no real response from him. He is almost 13 years old, and has grown quite a bit. Could this be his hormones kicking in or something else? He does seem to be getting headaches often, and he never has had much in the way of appetite his whole life. Both my wife and I are in the health profession, but sometimes when it's your own child, you can't be objective. We want to rule out something disastrous, i.e. a brain tumor, etc. His lab work showed high liver enzymes due to hepatitis, but nothing else. Any suggestions, or should we quit worrying?

A: As I'm sure you are aware, hepatitis A is an acute, self-limited illness with fever, tiredness, jaundice (yellow skin), poor appetite, and nausea. It is transmitted person-to-person, resulting from contact with contaminated stool and then ingestion by mouth. The incubation period (how long it takes to show signs of the disease from the time of exposure) is anywhere from2 to 6 weeks. Once someone has the disease, the virus can be shed for up to 1 to 3 weeks, making them contagious to others for the same period of time. The illness usually lasts several weeks, but prolonged or relapsing disease can last as long as 6 months. Chronic infection does not occur.

What you have described with your son sounds like it may all be related. In general, doctors like to give signs and symptoms a single cause. However, you have added headaches into the mix along with concern for disasters like a brain tumor. I don't share your concerns about a brain tumor at this time. A complete physical exam by his doctor along with a more detailed history may help put your minds at ease.

Have you tried talking with him to help figure out what he thinks is going on? Adolescence can be a difficult time for both kids and their parents. Teens often have many things on their minds, accounting for a lack of activity and motivation. Overall, I would "quit worrying" at this point. I would still keep an open mind for further evaluation if, in fact, you do notice a continued significant change in his school performance, his personality, or if any symptoms persist longer than you're comfortable with.

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

3 Fun Thanksgiving Games for Kids
Looking for some great Thanksgiving games to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Feathers on the Turkey game, Pin the Hat on the Pilgrim game, and Thanksgiving Parade Bingo game for loads of laughs this Turkey Day!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!