Taking the Heat Summer Sun Survival in WDW

by Deb Wills
AllEars® Editor-in-Chief

Feature Article

This article appeared in the April 23, 2005 Issue #292 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

We're approaching that time again… time when those of us up north are finally thawing out and Florida begins to "melt down." The deadly duo of high temps/high humidity can lead to a number of heat-related illnesses that occur when your body becomes unable to cool itself off. Speaking as someone who ended up in the hospital a few years ago with heat exhaustion, I know first-hand how serious this can be. That's why I thought I'd share tips for keeping your cool in the heat of the Florida sunshine gleaned from the Centers for Disease Control and other health-related websites, as well as those shared by fellow ALL EARS® readers.

Please keep in mind, though, that this article is not meant to take the place of any advice from your doctor or other health care professional. It's our hope that this article will increase your awareness and help minimize your chances of getting overheated and spoiling your fun in the sun.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: If this article seems familiar, it's because we ran a similar one a few years ago. We have many new subscribers since then though (there are more than 60,000 of you now!), and we thought it was an important enough subject to run once more!]

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The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body! As ALL EARS® subscriber Nikki Hendrix writes: "Do not push yourself. Your body is a perfect alarm and knows when to take a break. Listen to it. Keep in the shade and drink plenty of water."

What signs will your body give you if you're getting into trouble? Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness or headache, a "sick stomach" feeling or vomiting, and faintness. Untreated, the much more serious heatstroke can come quickly on the heels of heat exhaustion.

If you experience the symptoms of heat exhaustion, or see a member of your group experiencing them, the best thing to do is to begin cooling efforts. Get to a cool or shaded area, give the person lots of fluids, and loosen their clothing, cooling them with cool compresses or ice if available. Call for immediate medical assistance if these efforts don't revive the person.

Once the signs of heat-related illness begin to show, you can progress from "not feeling so good" to "feeling really bad" very quickly. Listen to your body. Do not ignore the warning signs!

Each WDW theme park has a full service First Aid Station where you can go if you don't feel well and need to get out of the heat/sun for a bit.

READER STORY: A few years ago, despite taking precautions (water, hat, spraying), I began to feel dizzy after standing in the sun waiting for and watching the afternoon parade. I went into the Emporium and sat down on the bottom of a clothing rack while my son ran to get my husband. A Cast Member came over and asked me if I felt okay. When I told him I thought I might faint he walked me over to the first aid station and stayed until a nurse took over. I was able to lie down until my body temperature regulated. I was given drinks and the nurse kept checking on me while I rested. She couldn't do enough for me and gave me some extra precautions to take so it would not happen again. The rest of the trip was fine but now I try to stay in the shade and I drink tons of water. WDW Cast Members are the best! – Susan Albert

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Be extra cautious in the sun/heat if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other medical conditions. Also be extra careful if you are taking any medications. For instance, certain medications (like some antibiotics, NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and aspirin, and some oral contraceptives), may make you sunburn more easily, so be sure to protect yourself and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

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Water is the key ingredient for keeping your cool. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, which prevents the body from releasing heat in an efficient manner. That's why you MUST hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! And don't think because you are young or in great health that this does not apply to you — it does!

Remember to drink even when you are not thirsty. In fact, if you wait until you're thirsty, you've waited too long. Increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Avoid caffeinated or carbonated beverages, as well as alcoholic drinks and those high in sugar — these cause you to lose more body fluids. Sports drinks can supplement fluids in your body, but water should be your first choice. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask the doctor how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Also, some folks find that drinking sports drinks (when they normally don't) can cause digestive problems. Again, listen to your body.

READER TIP: To keep cool while touring the parks we always carry a water bottle. We fill the bottle full of ice from our hotel room or at the food court of our WDW resort. Then we refill throughout the day with water from bubblers and any remaining ice from beverages that we've purchased. This keeps the water cool all day! Our other suggestion is to get up early and get to the parks for opening — it's cooler and there are shorter lines. Around noontime we eat in a nice air conditioned restaurant and then head back to our hotel for a dip in the pool, a cool shower and a nap. Then we go out to eat, are back in the parks when the sun's going down, and stay until they close. This plan is great because you avoid the hottest part of the day in the park! J. Tutlis

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Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (this also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses.

Use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher — the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels. You can get painful sunburn even on a cloudy day, so slather on the sunscreen every morning before you start out. Don't forget lips, ears, the back of the neck, and bald spots! ALL EARS® reader Kat notes, "Now you can buy sunscreen wipes that come in individually wrapped packets. They are easy to carry around the park because they are quick to wipe on and there is no fear of a bottle spilling in your bag."

Wear light clothing. If you have clothing that contains Coolmax or similar products, wear that. Items made of 100 percent cotton do NOT wick moisture away from your body.

Limit strenuous exercise. And yes, that includes walking around the theme parks.

Walking around in the heat and humidity can make ALL parts of your body sweat, and that includes your poor feet. When feet are wet, blisters can develop, so try to wear socks that are not 100 percent cotton. If you feel a hot spot developing, find a place in the shade to sit down. Take off your shoes and socks and inspect your feet. Put a bandage or Moleskin on the tender area, and let your feet dry. Dry feet are happy feet! If you get bad blisters, go to the First Aid Station — there's one located in each of the parks.

READER TIP: The hot humid weather at WDW can cut a day short when you begin to chafe from body parts rubbing together. I recently learned of a product — Bodyglide [$7, www.rei.com] — which looks like a stick deodorant but is actually a personal lubricant. It will prevent chafing and blisters. It is not greasy but it does eliminate the friction. It is a new "'must" take to the park item for me. Marilyn F.

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Michelle writes: Take advantage of each park's Baby Care Center. These are a haven for both mom and baby. When we took our son down one year he refused to nurse because he was too hot — this was in early April! When I finally found a Baby Care Center with its wonderful air-conditioned, dimly lit nursing rooms, he was much happier and nursed. It is important to keep a baby hydrated, too! Remember the old rule of thumb: "What goes in, must come out." So if your kid isn't going to the bathroom (or wetting the diaper), then you know they haven't had enough to drink.

Alisa Starke shares: Most strollers are in a navy blue or some other dark color that hides spills and stains. This is functional for general use, but in Florida it just attracts the hot sun and turns a baby's sanctuary into a sauna. To keep babies cool, line the seating area with a big white terry cloth towel and safety pin it to the seat so it fits snugly. Drape a light-colored scarf over the navy blue/dark material carriage cover as well. The light color won't absorb as much heat. You'd be amazed how much it cuts down on the heat for the little ones, and the towel soaks up sweat and can be washed the next day or replaced with a fresh clean towel.

Juli Vieke-Peach writes: I brought along a thin ice/gel pack intended for a 9×13 baking pan. I would freeze it, then wrap a towel around it and slide it in my son's umbrella stroller between the stroller back and his shirt. This kept him cool and wasn't awkward or too big to use.

Angie G: When we took our 5-month-old to Walt Disney World last June, we brought along a small, battery operated fan that hooked to the edge of the stroller. The blades were child safe so even if he touched it, he couldn't get hurt. This kept him cool and entertained — many people commented that they wished they had thought of that!

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ALL EARS® readers have sent in so many wonderful ideas for keeping cool and touring WDW in the summer! The most popular suggestions include:

Freezing water bottles; soaking bandannas in cold water or in ice, then wrapping them around your head or neck; cooling off in a shady area; and eating snacks in the air conditioning. Many others suggested using the water mister spray fans. To save a few dollars, plan ahead and buy them from a discount store for $5 to $7, rather than from Disney at $17.

Gay Bachmann suggests: Visit the dark, cool, indoor attractions that usually have no wait: Hall of Presidents, Ellen's Energy Adventure, American Adventure.

Marsha adds: My best advice (from the wisdom of a one-timer) — be there BEFORE the park opens and Fastpass that first, most popular ride.

The Pauls write: When the days are extremely hot, I take a couple of washcloths to the parks with us. I dampen them with cold water, put them in a Ziploc and fill another with ice. I keep them together in an insulated bag. Throughout the day I take them out to wipe my daughter's face and neck. This keeps her cool and clean. I keep adding fresh ice whenever needed throughout the day!

Annie says: We always take the neck coolers — the ones [with gel beads] that you soak in a sink for about 20 minutes, then wrap and tie around your neck. They stay cool for a good amount of time, and when needed, can be resoaked and reused. (These are also called Cool Neck Wraps — sometimes they look like funky ties.)

Matt Kiernan says: My wife is always looking for ways to save a few bucks. One of the ways she found was to purchase "Brita water filter" water bottles. We fill them throughout the day in the parks and we always have fresh, crisp tasting water for our little guys to enjoy and keep cool with!

Tracey says: I purchased a collapsible travel umbrella. I made sure that I purchased one that was a light color — black would not do! It folds to a compact 9 inches long, 2 inches wide, and fits easily into any purse or backpack. As soon as I was in the heat I opened the umbrella and it worked wonders. You should have seen the people staring at me. I think I could have sold it for much more than I paid! It was great for walking around but also for waiting for parades. It's surprising how much it helped.

Rich Mellon says: The CamelBak hydration backpack is a backpack with a water bladder inside. Bikers use them when hitting the road or backwoods trails to carry cold refreshing water with them. They come in various sizes and shapes and some also have cargo compartments for storing other essential items (sunscreen, etc.). Just fill it with ice and water before heading to the park and you can sip on it all day long. Use it up and just refill it at the park. An extra benefit for the person carrying it is that they get a nice cool sensation on their back.

Sue suggests: Eat in air conditioned restaurants. Even if you get fast food, go into a nice cool fast food restaurant and have your meal there, with your nice cool drinks in the ice cups. We get fruit from the stands as well — better than popcorn or other snacks that will make you more thirsty and dry.

Billy Putrino says: My favorite way to keep cool while the sun is heating up Disney is to jump onto a "Sea Raycer" speedboat and drive around Bay Lake. There is nothing like the feeling of the cool water from the lake splashing up into your face while you are cruising around. And you can also get one of the best views of the Contemporary with Space Mountain in the background from the middle of the lake. Editor's Note: You can rent a Sea Raycer at several resorts, even if you are not staying there.

A person after my own heart, Pat Schaub points out: The very best way to keep cool would be those Mickey ice cream bars. They sell them everywhere in the parks, so whenever you feel the heat, buy a Mickey bar, sit in the shade and do some people-watching. That would be the best way I can think of!

Finally, there was the tip that Maureen Mellor and several more of you sent in, which, if possible, may be the best one for beating the Florida heat: OK, I know this is totally cheating, but the absolutely BEST way to beat the heat is to avoid Orlando completely in June, July and August. Instead, go in early December — great weather and holiday ambiance out the wazoo!

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I highly recommend you review: Tips on Managing Heat and Heat-Related Illnesses on the CDC Website:


SENIORS: http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/934557316.html


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.