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Seven Ways to Ease Acute Hepatitis B Symptoms

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. June 27, 2011

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There is little modern medicine can do to help someone deal with the discomfort of acute Hepatitis B infection. Thankfully, these seven components of home care can help an infected person take control of acute Hepatitis B’s most common symptoms.

A contagious liver disease that can be acute or chronic, Hepatitis B has infected about 2 billion people worldwide. Only about half of those with acute Hepatitis B display symptoms, and there is no specific medical treatment to help these individuals. However, the seven suggestions described herein may help those with symptomatic, acute Hepatitis B infection ease their illness’ discomfort.

*Please note that the information contained in this article is intended to complement, not supersede or replace a physician’s advice.

Hepatitis B can be acute or chronic, with the latter leading to a potentially life-threatening condition. It is a major global health problem and one of the most serious types of viral hepatitis. Hepatitis B can cause chronic liver disease, which puts people at risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Luckily, a majority of healthy adults who are infected with Hepatitis B are able to avoid the chronic version by completely recovering from the virus on their own.

The symptoms of acute Hepatitis B last, on average, one to three months. While about 10 percent of those infected will develop chronic Hepatitis B, the remaining 90 percent will develop antibodies that confer lifelong immunity to this virus. Symptoms of acute Hepatitis B may include:

  • Jaundice – Jaundice is the term describing when the skin and/or whites of the eyes appear yellow. Although jaundice is a sign of liver damage, it is an infrequent symptom of acute Hepatitis B – typically appearing after other symptoms have started to go away.
  • Fatigue – Extreme tiredness can have a large array of causes, including acute infection with the Hepatitis B virus.
  • Flu-Like Symptoms – Although not associated with a sore throat or stuffy nose, acute Hepatitis B frequently presents with the common flu-like symptoms of a mild fever, headache, muscle aches and joint pain.
  • Digestive Problems – Likely because the liver plays a role in digestion, digestive problems such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of acute Hepatitis B infection.
  • Liver Discomfort – Those with an acute viral infection of the liver are prone to continual discomfort on the right side of the abdomen under the rib cage, where their liver is located. In most people, the discomfort is made worse when their bodies are jarred or if they overwork themselves.
  • Itchy Skin – Sometimes manifesting as a rash or just itchy skin, this frustrating symptom may occur when the liver is inflamed from battling a hepatitis virus. Experts believe that skin itching in people with hepatitis is due to the accumulation of toxins (such as bilirubin) that are not effectively processed or filtered by a damaged liver.

Although there is little a physician can prescribe to help someone feel better while acute Hepatitis B runs its course, these seven tips can help ease its discomfort.

  1. Rest – When your doctor suggests slowing down during acute Hepatitis B infection, listen. Whether doing housework, travelling, going to work, school, or exercising, reduce your activity level to match your energy level. Staying in bed may not be necessary, but listening to your body and resting when tired is crucial for a full recovery.
  2. Eat Well – Even though the idea of food can repulse someone fighting the Hepatitis B virus, receiving adequate nutrition is essential for feeling better. Since nausea and loss of appetite tends to worsen as the day progresses, nutritionists advise eating a substantial (but not heavy) meal in the morning and lighter meals later in the day. Experts suggest avoiding processed, fatty and sugary foods in favor of whole foods, such as fresh produce, high fiber carbohydrates and lean proteins.
  3. Combat Nausea – Following the nutritional suggestions described above can help reduce nausea, but sometimes more support is needed. Eating frequent, small meals generally bodes well for nausea sufferers. Two more natural ways to ease nausea include consuming ginger (freshly brewed ginger tea is ideal) and applying pressure to the acupressure point used for seasickness, approximately 1.5 inches above the wrist crease in the center of the forearm.
  4. Keep Hydrated – Especially important for those who have been vomiting or having diarrhea, staying hydrated is very important when fighting Hepatitis B. Drink plenty of water and consume fruit juice and broth if tolerable. Coconut water, sports drinks or other rehydration beverages can help replace electrolytes lost from vomiting or diarrhea. Avoid drinks known to aid dehydration, such as coffee and soda.
  5. Skip Tylenol – Although you may typically rely on acetaminophen to get you through fevers or body aches, avoid this over-the-counter pain reliever if acute Hepatitis B infection is suspected. Acetaminophen can worsen your liver’s condition, so discuss alternative fever-reducers/pain relievers with your physician.
  6. Castor Oil Pack – For those with pain over their liver, the traditional method of applying a castor oil pack to the skin may help ease the discomfort. For more detailed information about how to use castor oil packs, read Castor Oil Packs for Hepatitis C.
  7. Soothe Itchiness – Itchy skin can be eased by keeping cool, wearing cotton clothing, avoiding hot baths/showers, taking an oatmeal bath to relieve itching, applying cool compresses to affected areas or using nonprescription medicines such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton (consult with your doctor first to make sure these drugs are safe for you).

Those with acute Hepatitis B who are told by their doctor to go home and lay low can easily feel helpless against the viral battle being waged in their liver. Luckily, the seven suggestions described above can ease the most common symptoms of Hepatitis B infection, so that the individual infected with this common virus is no longer at its mercy.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/B/bFAQ.htm#, Hepatitis B FAQs for the Public, Retrieved May 1, 2011, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/pruritus.pdf, Extrahepatic Manifestations: Pruritis (Itching), CD Mazoff, PhD, Retrieved May 1, 2011, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2011.

http://www.hepatitis-central.com/mt/archives/2009/12/castor_oil_pack.html, Castor Oil Packs for Hepatitis C, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved May 1, 2011, Hepatitis Central, 2011.
http://www.lef.org/protocols/infections/hepatitis_b_01.htm, Hepatitis B, Retrieved May 1, 2011, Life Extension Foundation, 2011.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-b/DS00398/DSECTION=symptoms, Hepatitis B, Retrieved May 1, 2011, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2011.
http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/hepb-guide/hepatitis-b-overview-facts, Hepatitis B Guide, Retrieved May 1, 2011, WebMD, LLC, 2011.

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/, Hepatitis B, Retrieved May 1, 2011, World Health Organization, 2011.

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