WHEN KIDS GET SICK AT DISNEY
By Mike Patrick, Jr., M.D.
Of the unexpected situations that arise during a Disney vacation, few are as anxiety-provoking as a sick child. This fact shouldn't surprise you. After all, you've worked hard to save the dough and plan the details. You've dreamed about the "magical moments" your family will share, and then--wham!--out of nowhere--Mr. Fever comes knocking on your hotel room's door, wondering if little Bobby can come out to play. Couple Mr. Fever with the fact you're hundreds (or thousands) of miles from your usual support network, and you've suddenly got the makings for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation from Hell.
Don't panic. The first thing you should do is assess your child's illness, lumping it into one of three categories: mild, moderate, or severe.
The mild illnesses are easy. Maybe your child has a runny nose or low-grade fever. Maybe it's insect bites or poison-ivy or a scraped knee. Whatever the cause, as long as you packed a makeshift first-aid kit, you're in business. Now don't tell me you didn't throw one together. I mean come on, you're a parent, right? All you need is a fever-reducer, a cough-and-cold medicine, triple-antibiotic ointment, and anti-itch hydrocortisone cream in a spare shaving kit. Add some band-aids and tweezers and fingernail clippers and you're set. Just be sure to pack it in your checked luggage. Otherwise, a certain government official may step in and delay your departure.
Dealing with mild illness or injury is easy for most parents. Sure, you have to get past the shock of it happening at Disney, but at the end of the day, it's still your child and it's still just a runny nose or a scrape. You know what to do.
Things become tricky when you're faced with a moderate illness. Now I'm talking persistent fever or sore throat or earache. Your best bet here is to call your child's doctor and get his or her opinion. Your doc knows your child's medical history best and is likely to ask the right set of questions, ones that result in a sensible answer to the biggest thought on your mind: Should home treatment continue or should little Bobby see an Orlando-area doctor?
You'll notice I didn't include the option of asking your doctor to call in medicine to the Walt Disney World Pharmacy. That place doesn't exist--and for good reason. If it did, I'm sure plenty of moms and dads would browbeat little Bobby's doctor into calling in an antibiotic or prescription cough medicine if they thought Pharmacist Mickey would fill it.
Of course, YOU wouldn't do that. DISers understand doctor's treat middle ear infections differently than swimmer's ear. You understand a sore throat might be strep or a virus. You understand a severe cough could be a simple cold or a serious pneumonia. You understand urinary burning might be swimsuit irritation or a bladder infection. No doctor can differentiate these things over the phone. You know that. But please do me a favor, all right? Tell your non-DIS friends to stop asking doctors to phone in prescriptions in a misguided effort to save time and money. It's not appropriate.
So let's say little Bobby's doctor thinks your son ought to see an Orlando-area physician. What do you do? Well, the next call I'd make would be your resort's Guest Services desk. They have experience dealing with sick vacationers and can point you in the direction of the nearest urgent-care facility. If you don't have a car, they can arrange safe transportation or fetch a doc who makes hotel-calls.
Of course, if you see an Orlando-area physician, keep this in mind: Your child's out-of-town care will likely be out-of-network. You might need your Visa, and your insurer might not pay you back. Still, the cost is worth it when you consider what you're getting: a hands-on physical examination leading to the correct diagnosis and the right prescription. If you ask me, that's priceless.
Let's move on to severe illness. Like the mild conditions, most parents know what I'm talking about--stiff neck, constant wheezing, persistent vomiting--that sort of thing. This category is also easy. Don't waste time calling your child's doctor. Get help immediately by calling the front desk or 911. Enough said.
Let me conclude with a parting thought on flexibility. As long as we aren't talking major medical and hospitalization, little Bobby's illness doesn't have to ruin the family vacation. Carry on with a modified plan. Disney magic will still happen--if you let it. Grown-ups in your traveling party can take turns staying with little Bobby until he's ready to venture out again. Grandma may enjoy unexpected reading time, Grandpa could catch the big game, Mom might catch a nap of her own, and Dad could discover the simple joy of a quiet afternoon playing games with his son. While the possibilities are endless, they might not come knocking on your door with the ease of Mr. Fever. Making the best of a difficult situation takes compromise and lots of hard work. But then again, compromise and hard work go along with being a family. And family, if you want to know the truth, is where the real magic lives anyway.
Mike is a board-certified pediatrician with over 10 years of patient care experience. In addition to his clinical practice, Mike writes two weekly columns - Pediascribe: A Collection of Thoughts From an American Pediatrician and Mouse Matters. He also appears regularly on The DIS Unplugged and hosts Pediacast: A Pediatric Podcast For Parents.
TCOPYRIGHT 2006 MIKE PATRICK JR