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Visiting a Theme Park With Diabetes

by Lisa Fritscher

Theme parks are usually terrific at accommodating virtually any special dietary need. Low-carbohydrate and sugar-free choices are generally well marked on menus at both table-service and counter-service locations. For additional nutrition details, ask for a chef or manager.

If your diet is more restrictive, such as gluten-free or low-sodium, it is best to discuss this with the park ahead of time. Whether it is the chef at a particular restaurant or a dietitian who can help you plan your entire trip, you will be able to speak with someone who can meet your needs. Call the park at least 72 hours in advance if your diet is complicated.
In general, small meals and snacks can be purchased throughout the day in many locations at any major park. Consuming these items is allowed while waiting in line and at most outdoor shows and other attractions.

Planning your day
Many people find that their energy level fluctuates throughout the day. Staying in tune with your body’s rhythms can go a long way toward ensuring a successful theme park vacation. Trying to pack too much activity into each day can lead to exhaustion, irritability, and even difficulty managing your diabetes, so plan your days based on what you know about yourself.

If you are a naturally early riser, take advantage of the early morning hours. Theme parks often open an hour early for guests who are staying on-property. Speak with your hotel’s front desk to find out if this perk is available during your visit. Even if the park does not open early, crowds tend to be smaller in the morning. This is a great time to visit popular rides that often have long lines by noon.

If you are a night owl, do the reverse and visit popular rides in the evening, just before they close. Crowds often thin out by this time, resulting in shorter lines. Walt Disney World sometimes offers extended evening hours for guests staying on-property; ask at your hotel about this, as well.

Afternoons are generally hot and crowded at theme parks. This is a great time to see shows, which are often indoors and tend to have ample seating at this time. If you need to rest during the day, you can either return to your hotel or join other guests napping in the shade on one of the beautifully manicured lawns.

First aid and medical emergencies
Each theme park has at least one first-aid station, which can easily be found on the park map. The first-aid station staff can treat most minor ailments free of charge. In addition, the stations can store medicine that must be refrigerated, as well as oxygen tanks. They also provide a quiet, semiprivate place to lie down, rehydrate, check your blood glucose level (using your own meter), or perform other self-care tasks.

If you have a medical emergency while visiting a park, do not call 911 on your cell phone. These calls route outside the park and can result in significant delays in treatment. Instead, flag down an employee — anyone from a custodian to a manager — and ask him to call Medical Services. An emergency response team will be immediately dispatched from within the park, and outside backup will be called if needed. This process greatly reduces response time.

If you need help dealing with hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), there are several options for seeking it. One is to go to a snack stand. Snack stands are plentiful, and employees are used to dealing with such issues. Do not be afraid to politely excuse yourself past the line.

Another option is to let the nearest employee know what is happening. Theme park employees are empowered to make small purchases such as snacks or drinks on guests’ behalf, and one of them can bring something to you. Just make sure to say exactly what to bring, since employees can only respond to your requests, not make decisions that require any judgments about your health.

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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