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Planning ahead lets children with diabetes have fun during Halloween without their blood glucose getting too low or too high.

Whether it’s a festival celebration, a haunted house visit or trick-or-treating, parents of children with diabetes need to be prepared for the sugar-fueled festivities, said experts at Baylor College of Medicine.

“Halloween shouldn’t be scary for children with diabetes or their parents,” said Dr. Maria J. Redondo, associate professor of pediatrics – pediatric diabetes and endocrinology at Baylor. “By planning ahead, children with diabetes can have a fun Halloween without their blood glucose getting too low or too high.”

In type 1 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in children, insulin injections (or a device that continuously delivers insulin, called an insulin pump) must be taken to regulate sugar levels in the blood stream. People with type 2 diabetes may do well with only diet modifications and exercise, or may require medication in the form of pills or insulin injections.  

“When too much sugar is present in the blood stream it causes increased thirst, increased urination, unintended weight loss, tiredness and frequent infections such as urinary or wound infections,” Redondo said. “If untreated, particularly in type 1 diabetes, this situation can progress to a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.”

For a safe Halloween, Redondo offers the following tips for parents:

  • Take diabetes supplies on outings
  • Focus on costumes, decorating and spending time with family and friends, rather than candy
  • Eat the candy at home and count the carbohydrates
  • Trade candy for stickers or small toys
  • Check blood glucose levels more often than usual
  • Check for ketones if blood glucose is elevated
  • Stay hydrated

“You may also replace some of the candy with sugar-free sweets,” she said. “However, beware of the amounts because sorbitol, used in place of sugar, can cause diarrhea if consumed in excess.”

By focusing on the fun of the holiday and not restrictions, children with diabetes will have a safe and healthy Halloween.