Halloween Can Be Tricky With Diabetes

Diabetes can make Halloween challenging for young people with this disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Halloween can be difficult for people with diabetes — especially children. Free candy seems to be everywhere. With a little self-control, however, the holiday doesn’t have to be a bust.

Having diabetes doesn’t mean a person can’t eat any candy, but most come loaded with sugar, and eating too much sugar can lead to spikes in blood sugar, which can be damaging to the body.

The Joslin Diabetes Center says that children with diabetes can enjoy Halloween, but parents should plan ahead to fit the candy into their child’s diabetes meal plan or make sure they get enough insulin to handle the carbohydrates in the candy.

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, which the body turns into blood sugar (glucose), and insulin helps the body's cells convert glucose into energy.

"Have a Halloween candy plan for children who have diabetes."

The American Diabetes Association says that about one in every 400 children and teens has diabetes. For these young people who are trick or treating, moderation is the key.

Eating too much sugary candy can cause a spike in blood sugar. Extremely high blood sugar can lead to serious health problems, such as dehydration, abnormalities in metabolism (the process the body uses to get or make energy from food) or even death.

If blood sugar levels get too high, a child with type 1 diabetes may produce ketones. High levels of ketones, if left unchecked, may cause diabetic ketoacidosis or a diabetic coma. This condition is usually slow to develop.

On the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) website, Kenneth McCormick, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist and senior scientist in the Comprehensive Diabetes Center at UAB, recommends that parents and their children count carbs.

If a child takes enough insulin to accommodate the carbs, his or her blood sugar levels may stay in the target range. Each person should consult with a doctor to determine the needed amount.

An example of a reasonable snack, according to The Cleveland Clinic, has 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrate.

A parent may want to urge a child with diabetes to not eat any candy until they are home in order to carefully monitor their consumption.

Dr. McCormick has also advised that children save their candy and eat a portion as part of a normal dessert at mealtime, which can eliminate the need for an extra insulin dose.

Bethany Ann Muhlstein, PharmD at Tarrytown Pharmacy, Inc. in Austin, Texas, told dailyRx News, "Parents of diabetic children should always use caution during holidays when more sweets are around than normal. Planning snacks and meals ahead of time as well as having adequate resources on hand can help ensure children still have fun while also keeping them safe and healthy. Do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist about additional ways to keep your children healthy during the holiday season."

The Joslin Diabetes Center offers a tip that parents might try offering an exchange of money or small gifts for the candy collected to limit consumption.

For treats at home, parents might try to give their kids popcorn or sugar-free candy or sugar-free pudding. It may be a hard sell on Halloween, but fresh fruits such as oranges, apples, pears, grapes and berries can all taste sweet and also provide fiber that may slow the absorption of glucose, which can help blood sugar control.

Review Date: 
October 30, 2013
Last Updated:
October 30, 2013