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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Can I Lower My Chances of Getting Hepatitis?

Question: How Can I Lower My Chances of Getting Hepatitis?
Answer: The best way to keep from getting hepatitis A and B is to get a vaccine. The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses, 6 months apart. The hepatitis B vaccine is given through 3 injections over 6 months. Babies should get the hepatitis B vaccine in three injections as well - within 12 hours after birth, at age 1 to 2 months, and between ages 6 and 18 months.
To keep from getting hepatitis B, C, and D through sexual contact:

  • The best way to prevent hepatitis B, C, and D and any STD is to practice abstinence (don't have sex). Delaying having sex for the first time is another way to reduce your chances of getting an STD. Studies show that the younger people are when having sex for the first time, the more likely it is that they will get an STD. The risk of getting an STD also becomes greater over time, as the number of a person's sex partners increases.

  • Have a sexual relationship with one partner who doesn't have any STDs, where you are faithful to each other (meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else).

  • Practice "safer sex." This means protecting yourself with a condom EVERY time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

For vaginal sex, use a latex male condom or a female polyurethane condom. For anal sex, use a latex male condom. If needed, use only water based lubricants with male and female condoms. For oral sex, use a dental dam - a device used by dentists, made out of a rubbery material, that you place over the opening to the vagina before having oral sex. If you don't have a dental dam, you can cut an unlubricated male condom open and place it over the opening to the vagina.

Even though it may be embarrassing, if you don't know how to use a male or female condom, talk to your health care provider. The biggest reason condoms don't work is because they are not used correctly.

  • Be aware that condoms don't provide complete protection against STDs. But, they do decrease your chances of getting an STD. Know also that other methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms don't protect you from STDs. If you use one of these methods, be sure to also use a condom every time you have sex.

  • Limit your number of sexual partners. Your risk of getting hepatitis increases with the number of partners you have.

  • Don't douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. This can increase your risk for getting hepatitis.

  • Learn how to talk with your partner about STDs and using condoms. It's up to you to make sure you are protected.

  • When you are sexually active, especially if you have more than one partner, get regular exams for STDs from a health care provider. Tests for STDs can be done during an exam. And, the earlier an STD is found, the easier it is to treat.

  • Learn the common symptoms of hepatitis and other STDs. Seek medical help right away if you think you may have hepatitis or another STD.
Other ways to protect yourself from hepatitis B, C and D include:

  • If you are a health care worker or caregiver, always wear latex gloves when in contact with patient's blood, body fluids, or feces.

  • Never use a toothbrush, razor, or other personal items of a person who has hepatitis.
To protect yourself from hepatitis A and E:

  • Avoid anal-oral contact when having sex

  • When traveling to another country, drink bottled water and don't use ice cubes or wash fruits and vegetables in tap water.

  • Wash your hands before eating and fixing food. Be sure to wash your hands after using the toilet.

  • If you are a health care worker or caregiver and have to touch other people's stool, wear gloves and wash you hands after doing so.

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