Skip to main content

How to avoid hepatitis A while travelling

A brightly painted public toilet
Click to enlarge

Hepatitis A is a food-borne virus that could ruin your holiday – but protecting yourself is simple with our guide

Traveler’s diarrhea is a common enough experience on vacation. Sometimes a GI upset is caused by your body adjusting to an unfamiliar diet and climate. But other times it may be caused by a virus or bacteria picked up from contaminated food and water. You can dramatically reduce your exposure to these disease-causing micro-organisms by taking care over what you eat and drink while travelling. And you can give your body a hand fighting them off should you be exposed by getting vaccinated against common traveller’s illnesses like hepatitis A.

Why should I get a shot for hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver. The symptoms can trouble you for twenty-four weeks. They include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

You can easily give hepatitis to those close to you, making them ill, too.

Note that some cases of hepatitis A progress dangerously to liver failure. If you think you have hep A, see a healthcare professional immediately if you experience these symptoms:

  • nosebleeds and/or bleeding gums
  • bruising
  • drowsiness
  • irritability
  • sudden vomiting

How do I avoid hepatitis A?

The first step to avoiding infection by hepatitis A is to boost your body’s immunity to the virus by getting vaccinated. Your travel health nurse will be able to tell you whether you are at risk from hepatitis A on your holiday or business trip.

People get exposed to hepatitis A through food and water that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person.

To avoid the virus – and other food- and water-borne illnesses, think before you eat and drink. Eat only in clean, good quality restaurants. Hot food is generally safest when travelling, and peel fruit before eating. Green salads are best avoided as in many countries fields are irrigated with waste water. So it is difficult to get leafy produce clean. See our article about food-borne diseases for more information.

Carry a water bottle with you that you can fill with safe water. Safe water is water that has been treated with puritabs, boiled or filtered. When you buy water ensure that the bottles are factory sealed. Make sure ice has been made with safe water – but it is generally safer to avoid it, as freezing does not destroy viruses. Remember also to use safe water when you clean your teeth. See our article about water-borne diseases for more ideas.

Another really easy step you can take to avoid hepatitis A is to wash your hands thoroughly before eating, drinking and preparing food; and after using the toilet.

Does the hepatitis A vaccine have any side effects?

The commonest side effect experienced after a hep A shot is soreness around the injection site. Some people get a bit of a fever. Others lose their appetite. Check with your travel healthcare provider if you are worried about hepatitis A vaccine side effects.

How long does the hepatitis A vaccine last?

The hep A vaccine protects you for four years – but if you get a booster six months after your first injection, you can extend that protection to twenty-five years, which is great value for money! You can learn more about hepatitis A on our vaccine page.

How do I make an appointment for travel vaccinations in Calgary?

Canadian Travel Clinics can offer same-day vaccinations at our travel clinics in Calgary. Make an appointment online right now.