If you are one of the millions of people worldwide that suffer from POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), a day in a Disney Park can feel like a marathon. Although there is still a lot unknown about this form of dysautonomia, there are ways to combat the symptoms and keep your day in Disney magical.
I was diagnosed with POTS in the spring of 2014 after almost passing out between classes at my university. I was luckily diagnosed much quicker than most POTS sufferers’ due to a family history of the disease and a prior knowledge of the symptoms. My family has had quite a few trips to Disney since then and through trial and error, and speaking to other POTS patients, we have found the best ways to make it through the day and be ready to jump* out of bed the next day during a Disney vacation!
For those who may not know, POTS is a type of dysautonomic disorder that affects a person’s blood pressure which, in turn, affects their organs and systems. For someone to be diagnosed with POTS, their heart rate must increase by 30 beats per minute (bpm) or more (or over 120 bpm) within 10 minutes of standing. Some doctors may perform several tests to measure the autonomic nervous system in POTS patients.
If you suffer from POTS you can usually expect a day of a dropping blood pressure upon standing. Many POTS patients have hypovolemia, low blood volume, which means they simply do not have enough blood to keep every organ and system running flawlessly all the time, especially upon standing. This is the main reason a lot of patients experience a wide range of symptoms, depending on what their low blood volume and low blood pressure affects most. The majority of POTS patients experience fatigue, headaches, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, exercise intolerance, nausea, diminished concentration, shaking, fainting, coldness or pain in the extremities, chest pain and shortness of breath1. Another major symptom of POTS is the pooling of blood in the lower extremities, leading to purple or red swollen feet and legs and pain.
So how do you deal with all these symptoms while in the parks?!
Don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to keep the magic going!
First! Water is your BEST FRIEND! I personally recommend bringing a large bottle of water to the parks with you. You know those refillable mugs at the resorts? Take advantage of those too! Fill them with Gatorade at your resort and make sure to drink them throughout the day! Although you can’t refill them (for free) once you’re in the parks, make sure to bring them with you and when you stop for a snack, purchase some more Gatorade or you can ask for a cup of tap water throughout the parks, it’s free! If you’re not a huge Gatorade fan (with all that sugar!) you can purchase sodium and electrolyte tablets online, in health food stores or at your local pharmacy before your trip to add to your water throughout the day!**
Make sure you stay hydrated the entire day! If you’re sweating you should be hydrating!
Second! Salt is your other best friend! Salt helps your body retain fluids and raises your blood volume. While there is sodium in Gatorade and the sodium tablets, you should be adding it to your food too, or eating food with a high level of salt already in it! I recommend bringing trail mix, nuts, and/or crackers with you in your bag to snack on throughout the day. While you’re in the parks Mickey Pretzels, Turkey Legs, and popcorn are a great source of salt too! Turkey legs are also a great mid-afternoon snack and lunch. They’ll give you your dose of sodium and protein, and they’re yummy!
So we discussed what you should eat and drink but what should you wear?!
I highly recommend wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Keep most of you covered from the sun, but not too many layers to avoid heat stroke. Throughout the day make stops into restaurants, shops, and rides with A/C to also help you keep cool and not over heat!
Wear comfortable supporting sneakers! Sandals and flip flops don’t give you the support you need when your blood pools in your feet. Tight, thick socks will also help keep your blood from pooling and keep your feet comfortable!
If it’s not too hot,compression stockings are a great way to keep your blood circulating and your feet from swelling. I’ve used them when I’m on my feet all day for work and they make a 100% difference! You can get them by prescription from your doctor or by stopping by your local sports equipment store.
Another great gadget to have (not a must but a suggestion) is a Fitbit! You can keep track of your heart rate, which is not something you necessarily pay attention to while in the parks, and take a break when you notice your heart rate getting too high! The app is also a good way to keep track of your water intake for the day (remember: stay hydrated!)
So what if you do all this and you still feel the fatigue coming on and your blood pressure dropping?
TAKE A BREAK!!
Remember all the parks and rides will STILL be there when you’re feeling ready to get back to it! If you’re staying on property take your Disney Transportation back to your resort and take an hour or two by the pool or resting in your hotel room! I highly recommend planning your FastPass® reservations and dining reservations with a few hours gap in the middle so you can have time to take a break.
A float in the pool can do wonders to help fatigue and sore feet
If you’re not staying on property, you can still take a break! Get in line for an indoor ride or show where you can rest and cool off, that’s what “It’s A Small World” is for, right?? Some other great resting or indoor park rides and shows are:
|Magic Kingdom||Disney’s Hollywood Studios||Epcot||Animal Kingdom|
|Under the Sea||The Great Movie Ride||Journey Into Imagination With Figment||Wildlife Express Train|
|Jungle Cruise||Muppet*Vision 3D||Living With The Land||Na’vi River Journey|
|Pirates of the Caribbean||Star Wars: Path of the Jedi||The Seas with Nemo & Friends||It’s Tough to be a Bug!|
|It’s A Small World||Star Wars Launch Bay||Spaceship Earth||Conservation Station|
|Peter Pan’s Flight||Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream||Frozen Ever After|
|Haunted Mansion ||Grand Fiesta Tour|
|Carousel of Progress |
Rent a wheelchair if you need to! Just because our disorder isn’t visible does not mean we do not need the extra assistance every once in a while! Wheelchairs and Electric Conveyance Vehicles (ECVs) are available for rental at most Walt Disney World destinations, including theme parks, water parks and Disney Springs. Even if you’re already half way through your day, head to the front and rent a wheelchair to help you get through the rest of your day. (Check ahead with Disney services if you have any questions)
The Big Question: What rides can we go on?!
Every person with POTS is different. We have different symptoms, different degrees of limitations, and different things we can and cannot handle. It is all up to your personal comfort and knowledge about your own body’s abilities to decide which rides you can and cannot handle. If you are concerned and want to know before you get there, talk to your doctor and discuss your options. By going to https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/#/health-concerns/ you can see which rides are best suited for you and your comfort level!
You made it through the day, now what?
You’ve survived a full day at Disney! But the self-care is not over! Make sure before you go to bed you are still drinking plenty of hydrating fluids. Put your feet up and relax before heading to bed, seriously put your feet up! Make sure you elevate your feet to help improve blood flow and reduce swelling. You can call Mousekeeping and request some extra pillows to keep under your feet while you sleep. This will help your feet be ready for the next day when you do it all over again!
In the case that you are having trouble in the parks and need medical assistance there are First Aid centers located in the theme parks and water parks. Nurses are there during normal park operating hours and over-the-counter medications, bandages and other quick remedies are available. If you require medical attention while in your Disney Resort Hotel Room, In-room medical services are also available 24 hours a day. Call “Front Desk” from your room phone.
POTS can be a tricky disorder to handle, but once we learn to manage our symptoms, there is nothing stopping us from having a full and fun Magical Disney Vacation.
*Please do not really jump out of bed because that kind of motion can be dangerous to a person with POTS!
1. Dysautonomia International, Inc. “Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.”Dysautonomia International: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Dysautonomia International, Inc, 2012. Web. 20 June 2017.
**Please talk to your doctor before starting or trying any new supplements
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