A Sugar-free Halloween: Is it possible?
While every celebration holds new opportunities for a child with diabetes to navigate the season, Halloween is especially challenging. During an occasion known for sweet treats, having diabetes can put a damper on the festivities if you let it. You don't want your child to be excluded from the fun, but you have to protect their health from catastrophic high blood sugar levels.
Fortunately, it is possible to navigate the sugary goodies and costumed kids without major health or emotional setbacks.
1. Plan their costume wisely.
A child with diabetes needs access to key areas of their body while they are in costume. This means costumes with several layers, jumpsuits, gloves, or skirts without pockets may need to be adjusted to accommodate your child's needs. Here are some things to consider:
If they are:
- Checking blood sugar with blood glucose meter
- Using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)
- Using injected insulin
- Using an insulin pump
They will need:
- Easy access to their fingers or alternative testing site
- The transmitter to be unimpeded and a pocket or belt clip for the receiver
- Easy access to one or more injection sites
- Access to the pump and tubing throughout time they are in costume
2. Good food first.
Too often kids are so distracted by the fun sized chocolate bars, lollies and biscuits that they neglect the vegetables, sandwiches, or other healthy foods served on Halloween. Enforcing a "Good food first" rule means your child will fill their belly with nutritious food rather than treats. Not only does this mentality help them become more aware of what they eat, protein-rich and fiber-filled food can help minimize the sudden rise and drop in blood sugar levels when they do eat something sugary. As a rule, we always eat dinner before going trick-or-treating so we can focus on the fun rather than dwelling on the treats.
3. Create a plan
Researchers have discovered that self-control is like a muscle that becomes fatigued over time. While it is possible to strengthen your willpower, asking a child to refrain from indulging in all the typical Halloween treats is the mental equivalent of asking them to do a thousand push-ups over the course of the night. However, these same researchers have found that having a plan in place before your child is faced with trays of lollies can help them overcome the temptation to overdo it.
For example, saying, "We will calculate carbohydrates and dose for your favorite treat when you are ready to eat it," allows your child to choose when they are ready to indulge and which treat they would like to have. Telling your child, "You are not allowed to eat any lollies at the party," automatically puts their self-control muscle into gear. In this scenario, they are much more likely to get tired of avoiding the lollies and sneak some anyway without taking any insulin.
4. Adrenaline + Exercise = Crazy Blood Sugar Levels
If your child is a trick-or-treater, keep in mind that adrenaline from the excitement combined with large amounts of exercise may have an impact on your child's blood glucose levels. Your body releases a hormone, adrenaline, when we are excited or stressed. Exercise can also have an impact on blood glucose levels. Some children experience high blood sugar levels followed by a sudden drop as the body begins converting any available glucose into glycogen to replace the stores in the muscles and liver. Be sure to check your child's blood sugar levels often throughout the night to make sure they are within their target range.
5. Always speak to your healthcare team should you have any questions and the approach that is right for you.
Halloween does not have to be a minefield for a child with diabetes. A little careful planning can help you both enjoy this time of the year.
Created for the Roche Global Content Team.