Worried about how to handle that plastic jack-o’-lantern full of loot your son or daughter will be cheerfully dragging home on October 31? Children with type 1 diabetes and their parents face some challenges when Halloween rolls around. But a little outside-the-box thinking can help your little ghost or goblin enjoy the holiday just as much as everyone else.
By October, the teacher may already know all about your son’s or daughter’s type 1 diabetes, but be sure to have a chat before the class party nonetheless. Let her know if your child can have one or two pieces of candy — but not 10 or 12! “The key is that the candy be a special treat, not a free-for-all, eat-as-much-as-you-want gorge-fest, says Robyn Webb, M.S., nutritionist, cookbook author and “Healthy Eating” columnist for the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Forecast magazine. Make sure you and the teacher are on the same page, and have a chat with your child beforehand too, so he or she knows the parameters. If you can volunteer in the classroom that day, that might alleviate some of your concerns.
Make sure your child has a well-balanced meal prior to hitting the streets on Halloween night, says Webb, since walking can affect blood glucose levels. “Also, make sure you take a snack that has 15 to 30 grams of carbs with you to combat lows,” she says.
Discourage your child from eating candy along the trick-or-treating route. “Once you get home, you can sort out the candy together,” says Webb. “That way, you can allow a few treats, measure the carbs, and dose the correct amount of insulin for the carbs in the candy.”
Other great ideas for limiting Halloween candy intake:
- “Buy” your child’s excess candy with cash, or let him or her trade it for toys or games.
- Set aside any nonchocolate sweets for treating future blood sugar lows.
- Have younger children keep some candy, then leave the rest next to their bed for the “Switch Witch.” Once children are sleeping, you can replace the candy with a book or toy.
- Encourage children to donate the candy to a nursing home or children’s hospital.
When candy’s on the menu, consult with your health-care provider and monitor your child’s blood sugar closely. Also, remember that Halloween isn’t all about the sweets. So much of the fun of the holiday revolves around carving pumpkins and dressing up, so focus on those parts and downplay the candy aspect when you can. With some creativity, your child can have a Halloween that’s sweeter than any sugary treat.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.