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Health

Orlando doesn't have any particular health risks to watch out for (except sun exposure). Vaccines are not required to enter the U.S.; however, when traveling to Orlando (or anywhere for that matter), it is always a good idea to pack an assortment of over-the-counter remedies for common travel-related ailments. Sunscreen and sunburn cream will help to ward off and/or soothe an Orlando sunburn; Pepto-Bismol and antacids will lessen an array of stomach ailments that often pop up when traveling; eye drops will relieve tired and dry eyes (whether from the plane ride or all the plant life lurking at the parks); and a supply of bandages will help to protect the inevitable blisters, minor scrapes, and scratches.

You should, of course, pack any prescription medications that you require while vacationing -- and keep the phone numbers of your family's various physicians handy in case you need a prescription refilled or called into a local pharmacy. Pharmacies are plentiful throughout the Orlando area (many of them are open 24 hr. and offer drive-through service). Most are stand-alone stores, but pharmacies can often be found inside the area's larger grocers as well. Turner Drug Store has two locations that serve the tourist districts (the first near Downtown Disney at 12500 Apopka-Vineland Rd., tel. 407/828-8125; and the other in Celebration, tel. 407/566-9060) and will deliver prescriptions (for a small fee) right to your hotel. Additional pharmacies can be found in the local phone book. If you have your prescription filled at a national chain (such as Eckerd, CVS, or Walgreens, among others), it's likely that you can easily obtain refills or replacement prescriptions if yours becomes lost. If, however, you use a pharmacy not in a national network, you may still be able to call your physician, who can then call in a refill good for the duration of your trip. Note that while pharmacies and several grocers are well stocked with over-the-counter medications, many hotels often stock a very small supply of trial-size over-the-counter medicines in their gift shops, though prices are generally astronomical.

Common Ailments: Sun/Elements/Extreme Weather Exposure -- Limit your exposure to Florida's strong sun, especially during the first few days of your trip and, thereafter, during the hours from 11am to 2pm, when the sun is at its strongest. Use a sunscreen with the highest sun protection factor (SPF) available (especially for children), and apply it liberally. If you have children under a year old, check with your pediatrician before applying sunscreen -- some ingredients may not be appropriate for infants.

The hot Orlando sun (coupled with high humidity in the summer months) can easily cause you to overheat -- even to the point of dehydration. Drink plenty of liquids (water is preferable to sugary or alcoholic drinks) throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty, to prevent any ill effects. Dehydration can sneak up on you very quickly.

Seek protection indoors or in a safe location during the city's not-infrequent summer electrical storms. Central Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S., and while the storms are often stunning to watch, you do not want firsthand experience with a lightning strike.

Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld all have at least one first-aid station (usually staffed with medical personnel who can provide basic medical care) at each of the parks. If you feel ill or get injured while at your hotel, call tel. 911 if the situation is life-threatening; otherwise the hotel concierge will be happy to put you in touch with the appropriate medical personnel and/or services. Select hotels, including the Grande Lakes Orlando resort, have their own on-site doctors.

What to Do if You Get Sick Away from Home -- Always carry a list of phone numbers that includes your hometown physician, your hometown pharmacy, and your insurance provider, as all will likely be necessary if you find yourself in need of medical attention while away from home. If you suffer from a chronic illness (or even if you're just under the weather prior to your departure), consult your doctor before leaving home. Always pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage (so they are readily available even if your checked luggage isn't), and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they won't make it through airport security.

If you do need medical assistance while traveling in or around Orlando, there are several options. Emergency rooms are available at the institutions listed under "Hospitals," in Fast Facts. Centra Care (www.centracare.org) operates walk-in-care facilities in Lake Buena Vista (12500 S. Apopka-Vineland or S.R. 535, near Downtown Disney; tel. 407/934-2273), and in Kissimmee (7848 W. Irlo Bronson Hwy. or U.S. 192, in the Formosa Gardens Plaza; tel. 407/397-7032). Additional centers (slightly farther from the tourist district) are listed in the local yellow pages. A free pickup service (tel. 407/938-0650) for those in need of transportation to one of these facilities is available, as is in-room care for minor injuries and ailments (tel. 407/238-2000).

Another good source in the Orlando area is the Medical Concierge, a division of the EastCoast Medical Network (tel. 407/648-5252; www.themedicalconcierge.com), with board-certified physicians available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for good old-fashioned house calls in the comfort of your hotel room. They also provide same-day emergency dental appointments as well as medical equipment rentals. Insurance receipts, insurance billing, and foreign-language interpretation are provided.

Keep in mind that if you require medical assistance while traveling, it is always best to contact your hometown physician (or pediatrician) as well as your insurance provider as quickly as possible, preferably before you seek outside medical attention, to ensure that you are fully aware of what is covered, what is not, and what your financial responsibility will likely be. Many insurance companies require some type of preapproval for out-of-town services, or they may not cover any or all of the expenses incurred.

Safety

Just because Minnie, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy all live here doesn't mean that a few seedy characters aren't lurking about as well. Even in the most magical place on earth, you shouldn't let your guard down; Orlando has a crime rate that's comparable to that of other large U.S. cities. Stay alert and remain aware of your surroundings. It's best to keep your valuables in a safe. Most hotels today are equipped with in-room safes or offer the use of a safety-deposit box at the front desk. Keep a close eye on your valuables when you're in public places, including restaurants, theaters, and even airport terminals. Renting a locker at the theme parks is always preferable to leaving your valuables in the trunk of your car. Be cautious, even when in the parks, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash in a backpack or fanny pack, which could easily be accessed while you're standing in line for a ride or show. And don't leave valuables unattended under a stroller -- that's pretty much asking for them to be stolen.

If you're renting a car while in Orlando, read the safety instructions provided by the rental company. Never stop for any reason in a suspicious, poorly lit, or unpopulated area, and remember that children should never ride in the front seat of a car equipped with air bags./p>

Look Both Ways -- Traveling on foot anywhere in Orlando, especially on International Drive, can be tricky. If you have to walk across a parking lot or street, be careful. The Surface Transportation Policy Project's pedestrian safety report has named Orlando the most dangerous city in the country for pedestrians. Drivers here pay far more attention to their maps and street signs, not the people in front of them. Though walking up and down the sidewalks on I-Drive or U.S. 192 can be an enjoyable way to get to a restaurant or minigolf course without having to pack up the car, you need to pay strict attention when it comes to crossing the street, and you should avoid crossing multiple-lane roads altogether.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.