This article enlightens you about liver infections in children and the ways to overcome them.
By Chitra Satyavasan
The liver is located in the upper part of the abdomen, below the diaphragm. It regulates the blood’s chemical levels, eliminates toxins, and excretes bile - a digestive fluid which helps to break down fat, preparing it for further digestion and absorption. In children, Hepatitis and jaundice remain the most common liver infections.
“Babies have extra red blood corpuscles (RBCs) that break down after they are born. Excess bilirubin, a substance made by the breaking down of RBCs in the baby’s blood, causes the familiar yellowish colour of jaundice,” says Dr Naresh P Shanmugam, paediatric liver specialist and senior consultant at Global Hospitals.
Jaundice appears a couple of days after birth and is self-limiting. The baby’s skin and the white part of the eyes become yellow. When the bilirubin level is high, babies are placed under special lights to break down bilirubin. “Very high levels of bilirubin can cause brain damage and deafness,” adds Dr Shanmugam.
Only if jaundice persists in newborns for two weeks or more, the cause needs to be investigated. Jaundice in older children is not considered normal as it indicates liver infections or other illness.
Hepatitis, a liver infection, leads to inflammation of the organ. In children, most liver infections are caused by two viruses called Hepatitis A and B, though there are other hepatitis virus types. “Hepatitis A and E are spread through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B and C viruses can cause both acute and chronic liver diseases. Hepatitis C can go undetected for a long time and permanently scar the liver. These viruses are transmitted through contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected person. Newborns may get a Hepatitis B infection from their mothers,” says Dr Shanmugam.
Hepatitis A is self-limiting, while antiviral treatment is suggested for chronic Hepatitis B and C (though there is no guarantee of a cure). Ayurvedic treatment can lend additional support by aiding liver functions.
Ensure that your child gets immunised for Hepatitis A & B, eats food that is hygienically prepared and stored, and drinks clean water.
Children should be cautious while playing with pets as worms can be transmitted to them from pets, affecting the liver.
Monitor your teen for risky behaviours like unprotected sex; drugs, where needles are used; even tattoo piercing, where needles may be contaminated, and ensure that his nail clipper is clean if it is also used by others.
Dr A Radhakrishna from Venkataramana Ayurveda College offers the following tips to keep your child’s liver in good shape:
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