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How Not to Get Sick at a Theme Park

January 14, 2015, 11:27 PM · Disneyland continues to make news around the country, but not for any new attractions or anniversaries. The measles outbreak that started in the park last month now has spread to 32 people and counting.

We've made the point that measles is preventable — just get the utterly safe vaccine for you and your kids, for heaven's sake. But what if you don't want to catch any illness when visiting Disneyland or any other theme park? In an effort to help make that particular wish come true, here are 10 steps you can take to avoid getting sick on your next theme park visit or vacation.

MaleficentCover your mouth, Maleficent!

1. Get vaccinated. Including a flu shot.

Don't listen to the anti-vaxxers and their discredited claims. Talk with your physician, then get vaccinated for everything you can get vaccinated against, including this year's flu shot. Vaccines are often free in the United States now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, so cost shouldn't be an issue. No, the flu shot is not perfect in preventing the flu, but as with all immunizations, it shifts the odds of avoiding it in your favor. The more people who get vaccinated, the better the "herd immunity" will be for everyone, including those too young to be vaccinated.

2. Wash your hands.

Once vaccinated, you can further protect yourself from an even wider range of illnesses by keeping your hands clean. Duck into the rest rooms and wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds several times during the day, including before and after eating and using the toilet.

3. Keep your hands to yourself.

Keeping your hands clean helps reduce your odds for infection, and so will keeping your hands to yourself. By that, we mean not needlessly running your hands on handrails or other surfaces in the park where germs might reside. Keep your hands to yourself as much as you can, but do use that handrail if you need it to keep yourself safe from falling. (If you avoid the flu and end up with a sprained ankle instead, that's no win.) After you've touched something (including merchandise in stores!), keep your unwashed hands away from your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, to reduce your chances of transmitting germs to the places where they're most able to enter your body. Then go wash your hands.

4. Sleep well.

Getting a full night's sleep before your visit helps to ensure that your body has the strength it needs not just to get you through the day, but to fight off any illness you might be exposed to during that visit.

5. Slow down.

We all want to get to the park early and enjoy as many attractions as we can before the lines build. But when you first start to feel tired — or worse, start to feel the symptoms of an illness coming on — slow down. Take a break, sit down and relax for a bit to give your body the opportunity to "catch up."

6. Eat fruits and vegetables.

Healthy snacks not only help your body to refuel to fight illness, a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can help keep your system in prime condition to avoid sickness throughout the year.

7. Exercise more.

While a good diet can help you stay in shape, regular exercise can help keep your body in prime illness-fighting shape, too. Exercise also helps you build the stamina to get through all that walking around a theme park, helping to keep you from getting tired and putting your body at risk for falling ill.

8. Travel more.

Get out there, and let your body get used to being around large groups of unfamiliar people in unfamiliar environments. Together, you and your body will learn how to stay well. The more you do this, the better you get at traveling healthy.

9. Don't go if you are sick.

The best way to help keep people from getting sick in theme parks is for sick people not to go to theme parks. If you're considering a day visit to a local park and you're not feeling well, please, just stay home and go another day! Everyone else at the park thanks you in advance for your consideration. (Seriously. Now congratulate yourself with a nice warm cup of tea, then go back to bed.) If you simply must be selfish about it, remember that visiting a theme park while sick wouldn't be much fun for you, anyway. Now, if you've spent hundreds of dollars on non-refundable airfare and hotels, or you get sick while you're already on vacation out of town, staying home might not be a desirable option. In that case, we offer our final item of advice:

10. If you do get sick, go for the mask.

Let's make this trend among Asian visitors a global practice. If you are feeling ill and must go out in public, wear a mask over your face to limit the spread of contaminants into the air around you. Slow down, stay hydrated, and read some of the excellent advice in Amanda Jenkins' post, What to do if you're sick at Walt Disney World, which applies to many other parks, as well.

Take care of yourself, and let's all help to take care of the people around us, too.

Replies (8)

January 15, 2015 at 1:37 PM · A self-confessed germaphobe with a primary immune deficiency, I shudder to think of all the germs with which one must inevitably come into contact at a theme park. Anyone who rides as many coasters as I do has to repeatedly fasten and unfasten lap bars, seat belts and harnesses handled by the unwashed masses and others. If I washed my hands every time I came into contact with something potentially pathogenic I'd spend most of the day in the restroom. So I do what Robert suggested - i.e., refrain from touching any mucous membranes unless I'm confident that my hands are clean. Also, I try to stick to park food such as ice cream that is virtually untouched by human hands. A number of ride ops want to give me a high five and I don't know how to refuse without seeming rude, and that's another problem considering with how many park guests they've made physical contact. It's nothing short of miraculous that I've managed not to get sick at a theme park.
January 15, 2015 at 5:23 PM · A travel size bottle of hand sanitizer is a must!
January 15, 2015 at 8:00 PM · Did they find a cure for Hogwarts yet?
January 16, 2015 at 8:44 AM · Be aware of your limits. I didn't know I was prone to motion sickness until I got on the Mad Tea Party at Disneyland and yakked all over myself and the other riders. Also, understand that there is often nothing you can do. Another time I was at Disneyland, I broke out in chicken pox right there in the park. I didn't mean to make other people sick but I probably did. Oh well.
January 16, 2015 at 12:05 PM · What I want to know is what I can do against dizziness. Never had it when I was younger(hey, I am only 21) but realized now that many rides leave me dizzy. Are there any tips to help with that?
January 16, 2015 at 12:15 PM · Sven that is called old age my friend. IT kicks in very early. hahahah. I used to be a ride fiend but after going on a couple headbangers in a row I feel very discombobulated. If you find a cure though I would love to know.
January 16, 2015 at 12:23 PM · As many or all of you reading this, we have been to Disney parks (WDW in my case) several times and as a family of 6, we never get sick during or after the trip. Only once my second daughter became ill after ride the g-force feeling Mission Space. She got nauceas, vomited and have stomach illness until the next day, she and her mother stayed in the house and loss one park visit. We change to Animal Kingdom, so not that of a big loss that year (Expedition Everest was under construction yet)

We keep our hands clean everytime we eat, and when back into the house. We really touch all that was necessary touching on rides and on the lines, but no hands sanitizer were need it back then.

Now I recomend the hands sanitizer for these days, specially during flu season like Christmas, sorry Holidays.:)

Just keep your hands away from your face and you should be okay.

January 18, 2015 at 7:51 AM · Disneyland and Disney World are particularly dangerous to go to if you're concerned about catching germs. They attract and bring together numerous pre-vaccine-aged toddlers and unvaccinated foreign travelers in close proximity to large hordes of people, waiting hours on end within inches of one another—a recipe for disaster.

No wonder they’re considered the most contagious place on Earth!!!

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