Kids with diabetes may experience angst or frustration during the holiday season, especially when it’s time to trick-or-treat.
Morissa Ladinsky MD, a pediatric doctor at Group Health, explains a few ways you can help your child safely enjoy the festivities without feeling singled out because of his or her modified diet.
“Children with diabetes or other food restrictions absolutely should not be taken out of the ability to participate in holidays like Halloween,” Dr. Ladinsky explains. “Kids with diabetes really deserve the same degree of independence at appropriate stages as other kids.”
Tip #1: Dial Up Insulin Appropriately
If you have older children who may cover more ground on Halloween, they will use more energy, which means you will need to add more insulin to their standard dose to account for the extra caloric burn.
Tip #2: Monitor Your Child’s Candy Intake On-the-Go
Most kids like to eat a piece of candy here and there as they’re walking through the neighborhood. For diabetic parents, it’s critical to know exactly what your child is putting in his or her mouth. “That’s why it’s much easier with younger kids,” Dr. Ladinsky points out.
If you have older kids, who are trick-or-treating unattended, have a candid conversation with them before they head out and stress the importance of waiting until they get home to eat anything. “But, most teens, at that point, are pretty savvy about their own diagnosis,” she adds.
Tip #3: Know the Carb Count
Most people assume that kids with diabetes can’t have sugar. They can, but it’s important to know the carbohydrate count, which causes a spike in blood sugar levels. "The fatty, chocolate kind is slower release," Dr. Ladinsky says. "The sugary kind is a quicker release of glucose, so the insulin that you need to dial up to cover that is a little bit different."
She reminds parents to be especially mindful of candies like Milky Ways and Snickers, because these are made of both quick- and slow-release glucose. "Most parents of diabetics know to snag those right away and put them in a buy-back or dole-out basket."
Tip #4: Establish a Barter System
When it comes to trick-or-treating, one of the best ways you can help your child safely participate is by establishing trade-offs. For example, you could buy candy from your child, that they could then use to purchase a toy or game; or, they could trade candy for a later bedtime one night.
Tip #5: Ration Candy
Once your child is finished trick-or-treating, you should help them sort and allocate the candy. Some of the candy should be kept in a safe place for treating “lows.”
Otherwise, it’s usually fine for your child to have a piece or two after a meal. “It doesn’t fire off massive highs as easily because their insulin has been adjusted to cover for that meal.” Dr. Ladinsky says.