Please note that this article should not be construed as medical advice. We recommend you consult with your doctor prior to traveling with an asthma diagnosis.
Do you or someone you know have asthma? Then you might have some legitimate anxiety about taking a trip to Walt Disney World. Disney veterans will tell you that even the most lax of WDW trips can be physically strenuous, with long hours, copious amounts of walking, and a battle with all sorts of elements.
So you might be wondering why someone with asthma would even consider taking a trip to the Disney parks. I’m here to say that it absolutely can be done! I’ve taken multiple successful Disney trips (solo!) with my young sons who have severe asthma, and I’m excited to tell you how you can make this work for you, too.
Part I of this two-part series on traveling to Walt Disney World with Asthma will focus on a variety of considerations for trip preparation.
Pick the Right Time
Let’s start with when you might want to plan a trip to Walt Disney World with an asthmatic. Consider what factors trigger the asthmatic – do they have seasonal allergies? Are they sensitive to certain types of weather or weather-related factors? If this is the case, you’ll want to avoid certain times of year.
While the air quality in Orlando is generally considered to be good, its “allergy season” can last up to 10 months since the local climate allows plants and flowers to thrive almost continuously. Likewise, it’s no secret that Florida can be unbearably hot in the summers, with heat and humidity known to increase the instance of mold. Throw in increased crowd levels, and just thinking about the plethora of asthma triggers found in Florida might have asthmatics reaching for their inhalers!
So what’s the scheduling solution? For our family, Florida’s late fall and winter months are a sweet spot for traveling to Walt Disney World. Crowd levels are manageable, and the weather during these times is typically beautiful, with cooler temperatures, less rain and humidity, and low pollen and mold counts. Your group may be better suited to another time of year, so be sure to consider which seasonal factors affect the asthmatic in your life before investing a lot of time planning your trip to Disney World.
Take Preventative Measures
Next let’s talk about some of the things you can do to decrease the chances of asthma symptoms while in Walt Disney World. Planning is critical for any Disney trip, but particularly for anyone who struggles with a reactive airway. You’ll want to think carefully about the various situations and environments in which you’ll be traveling in order to anticipate or avoid any potential respiratory challenges.
I’ll start by discussing some ways an asthmatic might achieve his or her optimal level of health prior to a trip to Walt Disney World. After all, it’s tough enough walking the parks for miles a day, let alone worrying when an asthma attack might strike because you’re a bit out of shape!
Best practices suggest that asthma be well controlled, with the help of a physician, before engaging in travel or other strenuous activities. In my experience, this has meant finding the medication(s) and dosage(s) most likely to prevent respiratory symptoms when a trigger is introduced, as well as taking over-the-counter seasonal allergy medications that can prevent issues associated with allergic asthma.
In addition, my family has found that regular physical activity increases overall respiratory health. For us, this means doing cardio workouts and starting a walking regimen at least a few weeks before each Disney trip. This way, we’re as ready as we can be for the astronomical step counts the Disney parks are known for!
Then there are pathogens — bacteria and viruses — which are also known to set off asthma. As the mother of two germy kids myself, I’ve experienced first-hand the effectiveness of masks as a method of preventing illness. As a result, we wear masks and avoid crowded places in the weeks leading up to our Disney trips. Masking before and during our travels, in combination with keeping hands clean, has allowed us to travel to Disney World without the fear of illness.
And finally, requesting that your hotel make certain accommodations can be very helpful to anyone who struggles with asthma. Prior to your trip, call your hotel and any restaurants where you have secured dining reservations to be sure they are aware of your specific needs. For example, you might request a pet-free room if you’re staying in one of Disney’s pet-friendly resorts, or alert the chef that you have certain food allergies.
Know What to Bring
Now on to packing. In my experience, you either love it or you hate it. Either way, there are a few tried and true tips for making sure all of the right things land in your suitcase if you’re traveling with an asthmatic.
Starting with the basics, anyone traveling to Walt Disney World with asthma should pack their medications and equipment. This includes recently refilled prescriptions, inhalers, and portable nebulizers, as well as all of their related parts. I recommend purchasing carrying cases for these items (you’ll find some good options on Amazon, or ask your doctor) so that they are well protected during your travels.
Asthma medications and equipment should be accessible at all times, so be sure not to pack them in checked luggage. Although my family has never been stopped by airport or Disney security for these items, it is recommended that you be prepared to tell security personnel why you require these items if asked. If you need to take a nebulizer into the Disney theme parks, you might consider renting a locker to keep it in or having it held at a First Aid center (more on those in Part II) so that you don’t have to haul it around all day. In addition, you may choose to bring a pulse oximeter in the event that you want to monitor oxygen levels.
Other essentials you’ll want to have on hand include your asthma action plan, if you have one, as well as your doctor’s phone number and health insurance card. You may also want to consider bringing a medical bracelet for children in the event that they are separated from you and can’t effectively communicate the details of their condition.
Secondary items that should make it on your packing list are related to temperature and allergies. As I mentioned earlier, heat can provoke asthma, so I always pack for it. This includes hand-held or neck fans, cooling towels, and water bottles, which can be refilled for free by asking for cups of water at various quick service locations throughout the parks. And don’t forget to pack bathing suits for a midday cool-off at the pool or water park!
Asthmatics affected by food allergies might also consider bringing some of their own snack items to ensure they always have access to options that are safe for them. Although Disney World is known for being very accommodating to those with food sensitivities, having your own supply of snacks on hand will ensure peace of mind. Likewise, if you’re traveling with an asthmatic with a dust or pet allergy, allergy-proof pillow and mattress covers might be helpful.
Finally, I recommend packing a good supply of disposable masks (3-4 per person/per day), which can protect from a plethora of stimuli that can provoke asthma — from germs, scents, smoke, and pollen to pet hair, dust, and odors.
The bottom line here is the age-old adage that preparation is the key to success. If you take the time to think through how to stay healthy, pack the appropriate supplies, and anticipate ways to stave off asthma symptoms, you’ll feel more confident about the prospect of an enjoyable and healthy trip to Walt Disney World.
I hope you’ll be on the lookout for Part II of this series about traveling to Walt Disney World with Asthma, where I’ll address on-site triggers, managing stress, and where to get medical assistance. Don’t miss the final component of this guide to planning a stress-free trip to Walt Disney World with asthma!
Have any questions or comments? Any recommendations about what did or didn’t work for you on your trip? Let us know!