Q: We just booked a trip to Disney! It’s our first visit to the parks since our daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. Any tips for navigating the parks while caring for type 1?
A: Visiting a Disney theme park is an exciting adventure for any family. To make your trip a success when your child has type 1 diabetes, just be prepared that a few extra steps may be needed on your end to keep her safe and her blood sugars managed.
Can’t wait to make it to the top of Space Mountain®? Now that your trip is booked, start putting together a plan that accounts for the basics, including transportation, food, and diabetes care.
Will reaching your Disney destination require air travel? Touch base with your care team to obtain the standard travel letter explaining your child’s need to carry insulin and other supplies on the flight.
When it comes to meal and snack planning, check out the website of the park or resort you will be visiting to find out what types of restaurants and food vendors will be available; look at a map of the park (also online) to find out where they are located. Disney provides nutritional information for some of its restaurants, including carb counts and food allergy information, to help with meal planning for any visitor with special dietary needs. Though not every place to eat will be listed online, you can still get a feel for how to keep your child fed on your trip. Start here for Disneyland® and here for Disneyworld®.
In addition to showing places to eat and, of course, all the rides and attractions, the park’s map also serves as an invaluable tool for figuring out ahead of time places you can stop to perform diabetes care tasks, including bathroom locations for hand washing and where you can go to access assistance, such as the park’s staffed first aid station.
Next, make sure you will have the proper supplies with you to deal with your child’s normal blood sugar needs and any highs, lows or other issues that you may encounter. Remember, some of these rides are long. If you detect your child is low right as the Jungle Cruise® begins, for example, it will be more than 10 minutes before the ride ends, so make sure you have a stash of rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates available at all times.
If your child wears an insulin pump, check to see that all parts are secured before going on rides, especially rides that shake or jerk the body, which can pull at an insertion site. Humid weather can also make the skin sweaty, and tape used to hold the insulin cannula in place may slip. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to have supplies on hand just in case a sudden site change is needed.
What other issues can crop up? If it’s a particularly hot day when you visit, you may find that your child’s blood sugar is running high. This could be a sign of dehydration, which often leads to high readings. Make sure your child is taking in plenty of fluids during the day. You can take advantage of air-conditioning by picking some indoor rides and shows.
Heat is also a consideration for where you choose to keep insulin. If you’re not able to bring along some kind of cooler pouch to carry it in, Disney park first aid stations are equipped to store insulin and other medications that need to be kept cool.
What happens if you lose or run out of supplies while at Disney? The good news is that a number of pharmacies located close by will deliver your prescriptions to you right at the park. You can find this information online, but call and verify with the pharmacy just to make sure the service is available. Before your trip, share this information with your care team who will need the specific address of a pharmacy in order to call in an emergency prescription.
Your diabetes care team may also have some specific feedback for how to meet your daughter’s unique needs during this special time together as a family. Enjoy!
--Bradley Eilerman, M.D., is a staff endocrinologist at St. Elizabeth Regional Diabetes Center in Covington, Ky.
How Other Parents Deal
“Our daughter is 5 years old and definitely doesn’t use her stroller anymore, but I brought it along on our Disney trip because it was the perfect way to tote around bottles of water, snacks, and extra supplies. I also wanted to make sure that, in case of emergency, I could transport her. No one even looked twice, and it was so handy to have all that stuff with us. We had an awesome time!”
--Ellen, Atlanta, Ga., mom of 5-year-old Julia
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.
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