Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver, which is caused by a viral infection.
Hepatitis A is usually spread by contact with the faeces (poo) of an infected person.
The main way of catching hepatitis A during sex is licking or sucking skin, condoms or sex toys which are contaminated with infected faeces. Skin on or around the penis, groin, buttocks and anus is particularly likely to be contaminated.
Other ways the infection can be spread include:
- skin-to-skin contact with somebody who has traces of infected faeces on their skin
- eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water
- direct contact with infected faeces
Men who have sex with multiple male partners are at particularly high risk of catching hepatitis A.
The symptoms of hepatitis A can be quite mild, and the infection is rarely life-threatening. However, the following symptoms can occur within a few weeks of infection:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea (feeling sick)
- Extreme tiredness
- Itchy skin
- Stomach pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, dark urine and pale faeces)
To reduce the risk of catching hepatitis A:
- wash your hands well after sex or going to the toilet, and before preparing food or touching anyone else
- wash your buttocks, groin and penis after sex
- change condoms between anal and oral sex
- cover anything which is shared during sex with a new, clean condom or latex glove before use by another person
- use a barrier, for example a dental dam or a condom cut into a square, when rimming (licking a partner’s anus)
- use latex gloves for fingering or fisting
- don’t share sex toys
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Your body will eventually clear the infection, but this can take several months.
Once clear of the infection you will be immune to hepatitis A, so you can’t catch it again, but you can still catch other types of hepatitis.