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A “Disney rash” may not be the souvenir you had in mind, but many visitors to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and other amusement parks find that they get it.
The medical name for Disney rash is exercise-induced vasculitis (EIV). This condition is also called golfer’s rash, hiker’s rash, and golfer’s vasculitis.
This condition results from a combination of:
- hot weather
- sunlight exposure
- sudden, prolonged periods of walking or exercising outdoors
That’s why people who spend long days strolling at theme parks may be prone to it.
In this article, we take look at the symptoms, treatment, and prevention strategies.
Although EIV is often called Disney rash, the condition isn’t a true rash.
Instead, EIV is a condition where small blood vessels in the legs are inflamed. Swelling and discoloration can happen on one or both ankles and legs. It often happens on the calves or shins, but it may also affect the thighs.
EIV can include large red patches, purple or red dots, and raised welts. It may itch, tingle, burn, or sting. It may also cause no physical sensations.
EIV is typically confined to exposed skin and doesn’t occur under socks or stockings.
It’s not dangerous or contagious. It usually resolves on its own. You’ll typically see it clear up around 10 days after returning home, once you’re away from the conditions that brought it on.
Use cool washcloths or ice packs
If you’re experiencing this temporary form of vasculitis, using a wet covering, such as a towel on your legs, can be a good way to help treat it. Keeping your legs cool with ice packs or cold washcloths can help soothe irritation and reduce swelling.
Apply anti-itch cream
If your rash is itchy, taking over-the-counter antihistamines or using topical corticosteroids may provide relief. You can also try using witch hazel towelettes or an itch-reducing lotion.
Don’t let yourself get dehydrated. Drinking water and other fluids may help alleviate and prevent EIV.
Elevate your feet
It may be hard to rest while you’re out and about on vacation, but try to build in rest breaks with your legs elevated whenever possible.
You may be able to do this while someone holds your place in ride lines and during snack or meal breaks. Ducking into air-conditioned kiosks or restrooms with seated areas can also help.
Check guest services
Disney and other theme parks typically have first aid stations throughout the facility. They may stock anti-itch cooling gel to use on your skin. You can also gear up with some ahead of time.
Soak your feet
When the day is done, treat yourself to a cooling oatmeal bath. Keeping your legs elevated overnight may also help.
Anyone can get Disney rash, but women over age 50 may be most at risk, according to a 2015 article.
No matter your age or sex, you can take some steps to help prevent this condition during vacation.
Protect your skin from the sun
Research from 2016 indicates it may help if you keep your legs and ankles covered with light clothing, such as socks, stockings, or pants. This will reduce your skin’s exposure to both direct and reflected sunlight.
Anecdotally, some people report that using sunscreen has the same effect.
Wear compression clothing
However, more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of compression clothing in preventing EIVs.
Massage your legs
That same small study suggests manual lymphatic drainage massage could be of benefit as well.
This gentle massaging technique is geared toward draining lymph (fluid) out of the legs and increasing blood flow in both deep and superficial leg veins. Here’s how to do it.
Drink water and go light on salt
Drink lots of fluids and avoid eating salty food. This will help avoid the swelling associated with EIV.
Wear moisture-wicking clothing
If it’s hot and sunny, make sure to protect your legs from sun exposure by covering them with light-colored fabric or sunscreen.
If it’s humid, try wearing moisture-wicking socks for added comfort. Covering your skin will help prevent further irritation.
Here are some photos of Disney rash (exercise-induced vasculitis).
In addition to EIV, here are some other rashes and skin irritations that may occur while you’re on vacation:
- Heat rash (prickly heat). Heat rash can affect adults or children. It occurs in hot, humid weather and results from skin-on-skin or fabric-on-skin chafing.
- Urticaria. This condition is earmarked by hives brought about by raised body temperature. It can occur if you exercise strenuously or sweat profusely.
- Sunburn and sun poisoning. Too much sun exposure can cause sunburn or sun poisoning to occur. Also known as sun allergy, this condition can result in a painful, itchy red rash and blisters. You can avoid it by using sunscreen or keeping your skin covered with UV-protective fabric.
- Contact dermatitis (allergy). While you’re on vacation, you might be exposed to environmental irritants you’re sensitive or allergic to. These can include hotel soaps and shampoos and the detergent used to wash your bedding.
Disney rash generally clears up on its own, but you might need to see a doctor for more severe cases. A doctor can help you manage Disney rash if it:
- is very Itchy or painful
- lasts longer than 2 weeks
- returns with other forms of exercise
A doctor might run tests to confirm that Disney rash is causing your symptoms. You’ll like likely be tested for allergies and other skin conditions with similar symptoms.
After Disney rash is diagnosed, you could be prescribed an antihistamine or a topical corticosteroid cream to help manage your rash.
Disney rash may not be the only tourist-related malady you experience while on vacation. Here are some other vacation-related conditions and their fixes.
Preventing aching feet and legs
People claim to clock in anywhere from 5 to 11 miles per day at theme parks like Disney. That amount of walking is bound to take its toll on feet and legs.
A good way to ensure that your feet live up to the challenge is by wearing well-fitting, comfortable shoes. Make sure you choose footwear that allows your feet to breathe and also provides ample support.
Choose footwear that’s appropriate for hiking in hot weather, and your feet, legs, and back will all be in better shape at the end of the day.
Flip-flops and flimsy sandals may not be your best bet. But they’re handy to keep with you for a quick change at the very end of the day.
Whether the sun is bright or you’re walking around on a cloudy or hazy day, wear sunscreen. A hat and sunglasses can help protect your face and eyes. Also, consider opting for sun-protective clothing that’s light-colored.
If you do get a sunburn, treat it with home remedies, such as aloe vera, oatmeal baths, or cool compresses. If your sunburn is blistered or severe, check in with your hotel doctor or stop by a theme park first aid station for treatment.
It can be hard to escape from heat and humidity at a theme park, but there are ways to stay cool on the go. Consider the following:
- Carry a battery-operated or paper handheld fan. You can also find battery-operated fans that attach to strollers or can clip on to wheelchairs.
- Use a personal, handheld water mister on your face, wrists, and the back of your neck for an instant cooldown.
- Keep drinks in a small cooler with an ice pack or frozen bottle of water.
- Wear a cooling bandana with activated polymers around your forehead or neck.
- Wear a cooling vest. These usually use evaporative cooling or come with a cold-pack system.
- Wear moisture-wicking fabrics to keep skin comfortable and dry.
The most important thing is to drink plenty of water or other hydrating drinks. They can be cold or not. Staying hydrated helps your body do what it does best to keep you cool: sweat.
It may be vacation, but a day at a theme park can be grueling, even if you’re in great physical condition. At the end of the day, try to build in some quiet time when you can rest and recharge.
Getting a great night’s sleep will also help rejuvenate you for the next day’s fun. Drink lots of fluids, and avoid having too many dehydrating substances, like alcohol and caffeine.
If you develop a Disney rash, build in time to take a cool bath or shower, followed by an application of skin-cooling gel or ointment. Remember to elevate your feet.
Keep in mind that Disney rash typically goes away on its own within 2 weeks after your vacation is over. While it’s healing, the itch and discomfort should ease.