When planning a trip to Walt Disney World, the last thing any visitor wants is to be sidelined by illness. With so much to see and do, it’s important to consider whether it’s advisable to visit Disney World sick.
Although if you’re visiting Disney World, you’ve likely spent a lot of money (and hopefully purchased travel insurance), prioritizing your health is one thing while prioritizing the health of others is something completely different.
Coming off of a global pandemic, being sick at Walt Disney World is a popular conversation, especially for those who don’t handle illness well, have weakened immune systems, or would rather not spend their time on Space Mountain with a fever.
As many states are currently right in the middle of their endemic flu seasons, getting sick in the event of a Disney vacation is a real possibility, one that should be planned for. Afterall, we’ve all heard countless stories of Mickey Mouse faithful chained to their Disney Resort hotel rooms, on the sideline with flu, colds, or stomach bugs.
A Potential Case Study
After doing a little research on the topic, I luckily came across a fantastic example regarding the two schools of thought in visiting Disney World when you aren’t feeling the best.
Posted in the Walt Disney World Reddit thread, a concerned first-time guest asked for advice regarding travel insurance due to fear of becoming ill after visiting a wedding a couple of days prior to his trip.
Although the respondents were helpful, mostly, a few offered advice on visiting parks like Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom if he’s feeling down.
One particular respondent suggested that the original poster should “deal with it” assuming they are not feverish and try to enjoy themselves. I thought it would be a great opportunity to utilize this scenario as a case study of how you can protect yourself from illness leading up to your vacation, what to do if you become sick while traveling, and whether or not it’s safe to visit in the first place.
The Importance of Prioritizing Your Health
To start, let’s review a few quick keypoints about visiting Disney World sick.
- Your well-being should always come first, especially when you’re feeling sick.
- Disney World is a bustling and crowded place, which increases the likelihood of spreading germs to others.
- Visiting the parks with a weakened immune system can prolong your recovery and potentially ruin your vacation experience.
We all want to enjoy the fast-paced tracks of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or visit amazing intergalactic environments on Star Tours. However, from a personal point of view, none of those things sound attractive at all if I’m sick.
Although Guardians does have “barf bags” available (at least that’s what I’ve heard), I can’t really wrap my head around wanting to spend a sick day in a theme park, no matter how much money I spent.
The thought of Toy Story Mania with a migraine, Avatar Flight of Passage with nausea, or not being able to enjoy the simple creature comforts of Main Street USA due to sickness sounds terribly unappealing.
Still, from a medical standpoint, if you’re symptomatic at all, you’re health should be your top priority over fun and adventure. Many rides and experiences like the Mad Tea Party and other roller coaster type attractions already make healthy guests feel ill due to motion sickness. Someone experiencing a flu or cold could easily exacerbate their symptoms while visiting Walt Disney World.
Secondly, visitng solely for Walt Disney World, Florida, typically is extremely hot. Being sick usually puts you at a higher risk of dehydration. Losing fluids in an already sick body that is using up its precious resources to fight off nasty viruses and germs could potentially put you in a dangerous situation, and quickly.
Lastly, and this aligns more with our first and second points, who wants to spend their Magic Kingdom day in urgent care? However, if that isn’t enough to keep you in bed and off of Haunted Mansion, maybe the thought of getting someone else potentially deathly ill will.
But, to understand this avoidable danger, we have to discuss how viruses and bacteria work.
How Viruses Work
Viruses are microscopic infectious agents that can affect humans, animals, and even plants. They are unique in their ability to replicate only within the living cells of a host organism. By understanding how viruses work and their impact on our health, we can take necessary precautions to protect ourselves and prevent the spread of viral infections.
Viruses consist of genetic material, either DNA or RNA, surrounded by a protein coat called a capsid. Welcome back to biology. Some viruses may also have an outer envelope derived from the host cell’s membrane. Unlike living organisms, viruses cannot carry out essential life processes, such as metabolism or reproduction, on their own. They rely on infecting host cells to reproduce; in other words, they must spread to survive.
Viruses can spread through various modes of transmission, including:
a) Respiratory Transmission: Many respiratory viruses, such as the common flu or COVID-19, are primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
b) Direct Contact: Viruses can be transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals or contaminated surfaces. Examples include the common cold virus and herpes simplex virus.
c) Vector-Borne Transmission: Certain viruses, such as the Zika virus or dengue fever virus, are transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes or other vectors.
3. Viral Infection Process:
Once a virus enters a susceptible host organism, it attaches to specific receptors on the surface of host cells. This binding triggers the virus to enter the cell, either by fusing with the cell membrane or being engulfed by the cell. Once inside, the virus hijacks the cellular machinery to replicate its genetic material and produce viral proteins, often at the expense of the host’s cellular functions.
Viruses can have varying effects on human health, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Factors influencing the severity of viral infections include the specific virus, the individual’s immune response, and pre-existing health conditions. Some viruses, like the common cold, typically cause mild symptoms, while others, such as the flu or COVID-19, can lead to more severe respiratory complications.
Prevention is crucial to minimize the spread of viruses. Effective preventive measures include:
a) Vaccination: Vaccines stimulate the immune system to recognize and defend against specific viral infections, reducing the risk of severe illness or complications.
b) Good Hygiene Practices: Regular handwashing with soap and water, using hand sanitizers, and practicing proper respiratory etiquette (covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing) can help prevent the transmission of viruses.
c) Avoiding Close Contact: Maintaining physical distance from infected individuals, especially during outbreaks, can minimize the risk of viral spread.
Understanding how viruses work and their impact on health is vital in safeguarding ourselves and preventing the spread of infections. By following preventive measures, staying informed, and supporting ongoing research and development of antiviral treatments and vaccines, we can collectively combat viral diseases and protect our well-being.
Although bacteria and fungal infections can be dangerous, significantly when impacted important body systems like the brain, heart, or spine, the pathogens you’re likely to come into contact with at Walt Disney World are viruses.
Protecting Yourself and Others
If you’re experiencing symptoms such as fever, coughing, or sneezing, it’s best to avoid crowded places where germs can easily spread. This of course, if for your own safety, but also for the safety of those around you. Although our awareness of disease transmission has become numb following the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still vulnerable groups out there who could very well die from viral infections that their bodies can’t handle.
At Risk Populations
- Pregnant Women
- Those with autoimmune disorders
- Those with weakened immune systems from chronic disease and cancer treatments
- Those with chronic respiratory disease
Another interesting consideration to consider if debating whether or not you should visit Disney World sick is who you could be infecting. Have you ever wondered by COVID spread so easily? Well, because our bodies had never been exposed to that particular strand of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This meant that we had no natural defense against the illness.
As Disney World remains one of the most popular traveling destinations in the world, you could be giving someone a strand of flu or cold that they’ve never encountered. With their body and immune system already at a disadvantage, you could inadvertantly make someone very sick, or even put their life in danger.
- Properly covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing using tissues or your elbow can help minimize the risk of contaminating others.
- Regularly washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer can reduce the chance of transmitting germs.
Ultimately, exposure to disease is unavoidable at Disney World. It’s a crowded place where there contaminated surfaces everyone. As well, fomites (objects or items likely to carry infectios agents) are just about everywhere. Jsutifying visiting the parks while you’re sick because you can “keep your distance” is not realistic or reasonable.
Ways to Prevent Illness Prior While Visiting
Preparing for a big trip like Walt Disney World can be an exciting time, but nothing can ruin your travel plans faster than falling ill right before your departure. To ensure you stay healthy and avoid any pre-trip sickness, we have compiled a list of practical tips that will help you maintain your well-being and enjoy your upcoming adventure to the fullest. By following these guidelines, you can minimize the risk of getting sick and ensure a smooth start to your journey.
1. Boost Your Immune System:
A strong immune system is your best defense against illnesses. Prioritize your health in the weeks leading up to your trip by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Stay hydrated, exercise regularly, and get enough quality sleep to support your immune system.
2. Practice Good Hygiene:
Proper hygiene is vital in preventing the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before meals and after using public facilities. If soap is not readily available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
3. Get Vaccinated:
Check with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are up to date with all necessary vaccinations. Depending on your travel destination, certain immunizations may be recommended or required. These vaccinations protect you from various diseases and provide extra peace of mind during your trip.
4. Manage Stress Levels:
Stress weakens the immune system and makes you more susceptible to illnesses. Take time to relax and engage in activities that reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies. Prioritize self-care and maintain a positive mindset before embarking on your journey.
5. Stay Active:
Regular exercise not only helps to boost your immune system but also improves your overall well-being. Engage in moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling, to keep your body in optimal condition. Additionally, exercise is known to reduce stress and promote better sleep.
6. Practice Proper Sleep Hygiene:
Adequate sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining a strong immune system. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night leading up to your trip. Keep a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to restful sleep.
7. Avoid Close Contact with Sick Individuals:
Viruses and bacteria can easily spread through close contact with infected individuals. If possible, avoid contact with people who are visibly sick or exhibiting symptoms of illness. This includes crowded places or enclosed spaces where germs can easily transmit.
8. Stay hydrated and Eat Well:
Proper nutrition is essential for your overall health. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially when traveling. Pack healthy snacks for your journey and opt for nutritious meals to keep your body nourished and energized.
Should You Visit Disney World Sick?
The simple answer is “no.” In my professional opinion, which is valid (I promise), if you have a cough, fever, body aches, congestion, chest pain, or any other kind of illness, you should wait it out in your resort room and seek medical advice before carrying on with your park day. Not only are you unnecessarily putting others at risk, but you’re also making it much more difficult for your body to fight off your illness.
I get it. Disney World is expensive, and no one wants to waste their park time. It’s why some visitors rope drop and stay til close, but why take the chance of ruining your entire vacation over potentially one day of feeling poorly? Rest, hydrate, relax, and see how you feel on day two.
As for the cited Reddit post earlier, there are travel insurance plans out there that would protect your vacation investment should extenuating circumstances rear their ugly heads. However, as noted in the post, most don’t cover general illness, although many do contain clauses for COVID-19.
In referencing the idea of “dealing with an illness” and trying to enjoy the parks anyhow, that mentality makes sense financially; however, in the long run, you’re time spent at Disney World will possess more quality if you give your body the necessary time it needs to recover and heal itself.