A few certainties exist when visiting one of Orlando’s many theme park offerings. You’re going to spend money, your feet will hurt, and you’ll dehydrate if you don’t drink water while visiting Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando.
As someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando to frequently visit, I’ve noticed an alarming trend lately: guests suffering from dehydration. The past few weekends have been spent at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, with a visit to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party sprinkled in. During each event, I’ve personally seen multiple guests go down for the count.
You’d think with milder temperatures moving into Central Florida, guests to Disney World and Universal Orlando wouldn’t struggle as much with dehydration. However, here’s the thing: it isn’t the heat that will get you; it’s the humidity, and Florida has plenty of humidity to go around.
Walking around a Disney Park is exhausting; anyone who’s visited Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or Universal Studios will attest to that. Unlike California, Florida, which often boasts ridiculous temperatures, remains extremely humid, squeezing fluid from guests as they walk mile after mile in search of fun and magic.
It’s Hot All Year Round, But Summer is Brutal
Temperatures currently are mild in Central Florida. However, you’ll notice when leaving your resort a heavy feeling once your face meets the moister-laden air of the sunshine state.
Although late Fall and Winter can see comfortable temps on the thermostat, it’s rare that the humidity in Florida ever lets up. Of course, summertime is a different story, as triple-digit numbers are prevalent, with the latest summer season seeing multiple record-breaking temperatures.
Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion are a Real Concern
When visiting parks like Animal Kingdom, Islands of Adventure, or EPCOT, it isn’t uncommon to see medical staff sitting or working on a guest who’s gone down due to heat exhaustion or cramps.
With the introduction of alcohol, which is attributable to dehydration, as guests stroll around during the day in high humidity, incredible temps, sweating, and concerns over losing vital fluid that help the body operate and keep internal organs cool grows. Many, unaware that they are even dehydrating, are unaware that they are in danger until cramps (typically the first sign of heat-related injury) set in.
Here’s the catch: although drinking water (especially the day before your visit) is highly recommended, often it isn’t enough. If your fluid output, either by sweat or urine, outweighs the water you’re retaining, you could dehydrate even though you’re drinking water. This is why alcohol can be a deadly consequence of drinking in high temperatures. A combination of salt intake, accompanied by water and electrolytes, is incredibly helpful in assuring your body can handle the heat and humidity of Florida.
Bring a Water Bottle, Take Advantage of Free Water
There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for extreme temperatures that you could experience while visiting Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando. First, be sure to drink plenty of fluid before your park day. Once you start sweating, which is likely before 9 a.m. in Florida, you’re already fighting the silent battle against dehydration. Whether it’s Universal Studios, Hollywood Studios, or Magic Kingdom, spend the evening preparing your body to lose large amounts of fluid.
Next, take the water during meals and supplement it with a sports drink. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a table service or quick service meal; skip the soda. If you have to have one, supplement it with water and sports drinks. The same goes for you coffee lovers out there. Florida is the home of Gatorade, and although you won’t find it at Disney World, Powerade makes for a great alternative. So, when having food, ask for water or a sports drink to wash it all down.
Lastly, bring your own food and drink. This one surprises people visiting Walt Disney World, as they don’t expect them to allow drinks or food to be brought into their parks. Well, they do! Salty snacks are a great way to help stay hydrated as the sodium works at the molecular level to retain fluids in your cells. As well, Disney World has refillable water stations scattered around property where you can ensure your bottle stays full. Worst case scenario, stop in at any dining location and ask for ice water; it’s free!
Some Heat Casualties Have Little to Do with Dehydration
Although drinking fluids is the most critical aspect of fighting off heat-related injury, sometimes it simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can come on even if you’re drinking plenty of fluids. This is simply due to the body’s inability to keep its core temperature regulated. Sometimes, in extreme temperatures, you simply can’t help but fall victim to the glaring sun and blazing heat.
There are a few things you can do to help here as well! Moisture-wicking clothing, which offers breathable, cooling fabric, is an excellent option for your park day. The items work by keeping moisture from your sweat trapped beneath and within the material, cooling the skin. As wonderful as they are, maybe skip the Spirit Jerseys; they’re neither moisture-wicking nor breathable. They’re cute, but heavy and can lead to overheating in the body. You could also use battery-powered fans and cooling clothes.
Hydrate or Die
The title “hydrate or die” sounds dramatic and ridiculous, we know, but it couldn’t be closer to the truth. Even during more manageable times of the year, dehydration is a real concern for park guests, and with the culture-shifting towards heavy consumption of alcohol, as is the case with EPCOT and Halloween Horror Nights, medics, EMS, and first aid workers will remain busy as guests continue to suffer from heat-related injuries. I’ve seen the trend myself, first-hand, as it’s almost a guarantee that someone, somewhere, will go down during a visit to Walt Disney World.
There’s no excuse not to drink water during your park day. Disney and Universal both understand that the sub-tropical climate in Florida is a health concern for their guests. Therefore, they both offer plenty of opportunities to have fluids readily available. I’ve even seen table service locations with ice water and cups ready for self-serve.
It’s important to take breaks, see a show, get out of the sun, and pay close attention to urine color (sounds gross, but the darker it is, the more dehydrated you are). Don’t cut your fun short; no one wants to go down, pass out, or cramp up. Instead, take care of yourself, listen to your body, and enjoy all the fun Orlando has to offer.