Disney Rash: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

What is a Disney Rash?

The Disney rash—also called exercise-induced vasculitis (EIV), golfer’s rash, and golfer’s vasculitis—is common in golfers, runners, and those who walk around in the heat for long periods of time at theme parks (like Disney World).

This article discusses the Disney rash and how it occurs. It also explores the symptoms of Disney rash and how it is treated.

Exercise-Induced Vasculitis
Wendy Bumgardner

Disney Rash Symptoms

Symptoms of the Disney rash may include:

  • A rash that usually appears on both lower legs, ankles, and thighs and lasts from three to four weeks
  • Single or multiple episodes of the rash
  • Rash that primarily affects the skin that is exposed (sparing the skin that is covered by stockings or socks)
  • Erythema (patches of flushed, red skin)
  • Red patches, purple spots (called purpura), or wheals (called urticarial lesions)
  • Swelling of the affected extremities
  • Severe itching, burning, or pain

Causes

Disney rash commonly occurs when a person is exercising and the extremities are exposed to heat. This causes an increase in blood flow to the medium-sized or small vessels in the lower extremities.

Blood rushes to the small vessels to help prevent the body from overheating. If there is a problem with return blood flow (called venous stasis), prolonged exercise in a hot or humid environment irritates the subcutaneous (under the skin) tissue on the legs and ankles. 

Common Causes Related to Activity

There are several common activities known to trigger a Disney rash, these include:

  • Golfing
  • Running (particularly long-distance running)
  • Step aerobics
  • Bodybuilding
  • Swimming
  • Hiking

Disney Rash and Genetics

Other factors related to the cause of the Disney rash may include hereditary factors. Some experts suggest that there may be a genetic link associated with a person's risk of getting the Disney rash.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of the Disney rash is based on several factors, including a history and physical examination as well as various diagnostic tests including:

  • Laboratory tests: These check for systemic (involving the entire body) vasculitis, a skin biopsy (tissue examination under a microscope) to evaluate for the presence of leukocytoclastic vasculitis (a possible indication that a person has lupus).
  • Blood tests: Blood tests such as those that evaluate for a high level of C-reactive protein can confirm signs of inflammation. Blood tests can also evaluate whether you have specific antibodies—such as the ANCA test—which checks for antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies.

There are two primary reasons to conduct lab tests or imaging tests when a person has the Disney rash, including:

  • To evaluate the impact on other organs (in addition to the skin), which may indicate a person has systemic (involving the entire body) vasculitis.
  • To rule out other causes of cutaneous (skin) vasculitis (other than the Disney rash)

Disney Rash Treatment

The Disney rash often subsides on its own within three to four weeks; treatment is often aimed at reducing symptoms and preventing recurrence of the rash, these modalities include: 

  • Administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and swelling
  • Administration of antihistamine drugs to reduce itching
  • Elevation of affected extremities
  • The use of compression stockings relieves discomfort and promotes quicker healing, while helping to prevent subsequent outbreaks
  • Avoidance of vigorous exercise (temporarily, unless the rash involves recurrent episodes, in which exercise in a hot environment should be avoided)

Using Steroids for Disney Rash

Steroids—such as prednisone—should only be used for cases of severe cutaneous vasculitis with blistering and ulceration.

Prevention

Tips for preventing the Disney rash may include:

  • Wearing compression stockings: Elastic socks designed to help promote good circulation in the lower extremities. A study found that symptoms of the rash were absent in areas of the legs covered with compression socks.
  • Elevating the legs: This is important after long periods of walking and standing at theme parks.
  • Taking frequent breaks when exercising: This is especially important in hot weather.
  • Wearing cotton or other lightweight fabric that is loose to stay cool: A 2016 study discovered that wearing lightweight fabric helped prevent skin rash from occurring.

Other Rashes

There are several other rashes—that are common in the summer months that could be mistaken for the Disney rash, these include:

Heat Rash (Prickly Heat)

Heat rash is an itchy rash that is pink or red that is likely to occur because of blocked sweat ducts.

It is often present in areas covered by clothing and often occurs when a person has applied heavy creams, is wearing thick clothing, or is in extreme environmental temperatures.

Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac can cause a red, swollen, itchy rash that may progress to blisters in areas of the skin that are directly exposed.

These plants all contain urushiol, which can cause an allergic reaction.

Symptoms usually present within 48 to 72 hours of exposure to the plant and could worsen in a period of up to five days after exposure. The rash usually subsides on its own in a week or two.

Swimmer’s Itch

Because swimming has been known to be an underlying cause of the Disney rash, it’s important to note that other types of rashes commonly occur from swimming.

Swimmer’s rash, for example, is often a result of swimming in stagnant, contaminated water that may be contaminated with parasites from bird droppings. A red, itchy, patchy rash may appear within 48 hours of exposure. The rash may last for weeks but usually subsides on its own

A Word From Verywell

If you notice signs of a rash after visiting a theme park or after other types of exercise in a hot, humid climate, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider, but know there is no need to panic.

You may want to take some preventative measures if a rash appears—such as putting your feet up—but be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking medications or applying any type of topical cream or ointment to the rash.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do you get a rash at Disney?

    The Disney rash is caused by exercise-induced vasculitis. When you are walking around in the heat, blood flow increases to small- and medium-sized blood vessels in the lower legs. This mechanism is designed to prevent overheating. However, if there is a problem with return blood flow, the tissue under the skin on your lower legs becomes irritated and inflamed, causing the rash. 

  • What does Disney rash look like?

    A Disney rash typically appears on both lower legs on skin that is exposed to the hot humid air. The rash can look like patches of flushed, red skin, purple spots, and raised lesions. It is commonly associated with severe itching, burning, or pain. 

  • Is Disney rash serious?

    No. Disney rash, known medically as exercise-induced vasculitis, is not a serious condition and does not indicate any health issues.

    The Disney rash typically resolves on its own within 10 days. Treatment focuses on relieving the pain and itch associated with the rash.

  • How can I prevent Disney rash?

    Avoiding the hottest part of the day is one step to avoiding exercise-induced vasculitis (Disney rash). Staying hydrated while walking all day in the sun will help, too. You can also prepare yourself by regularly walking long distances before your vacation. Getting used to the exercise will help your body be ready to be on your feet all day at Disney.

  • Can exercise-induced vasculitis be related to autoimmune disease?

    Yes. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, two autoimmune diseases, are more prone to developing exercise-induced vasculitis. 


  • Can essential oils be used to treat vasculitis?

    There isn’t research showing the benefits of essential oils on vasculitis. Some studies do show that there are anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties associated with some oils, though, which might be helpful. Tea tree oil has been shown to help with a variety of skin disorders. You can speak to your healthcare provider about whether it might be appropriate to try on vasculitis. 

 

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. DermNet NZ. Exercise-induced vasculitis.

  3. Pavesi A, Drago F, Basso D, Parodi A. Sport-induced vasculitis. J Clin Exp Dermatol. 2011;02(02). doi:10.4172/2155-9554.1000119 

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  6. MedlinePlus. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

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By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.