Wicked Candy Hangover: Diabetic Tips for a Safe Halloween
A Different Kind of Dread
So here it is again - the time of year I dread with every fiber of my being. It’s Halloween, and I’m the mother of a type 1 diabetic.
As the entire country gorges on a smorgasbord of Tootsie Rolls, Crunch bars, and Skittles, diabetics everywhere are told they can’t play. What parent wants to tell their little ones that they can’t have fun with everyone else, because their blood sugars will spike, causing them to crash, then feel sick, then crave more sugar, then sleep for hours, and, later when they come to, shoot fire out of their eyes at any passerby who so much as glances at them? The candy hangover isn't a pleasant thing for your child to go through, and it isn't easy on the family either.
Let’s face it: kids with a cache of candy and the encouragement of their sugar-buzzed friends are not going to stop what they are doing, pull out a meter and test strips, poke their finger to draw blood, wait for the meter to read their current blood sugar, and then plug that number into their pump to cover an estimate of the sugar they are about to consume. I know this from personal experience.
For the most part, kids with diabetes at Halloween become excellent liars. They will tell you fake numbers; stash candy like a prisoner hides cigarettes; and steal, cheat, and lie as well as any crack addict.
It has always baffled me that my brilliant daughter, who knows very well the consequences for binge candy eating, would still choose to do it. I've asked her, “Do you like the side effects? Aren't they enough to keep you from hurting yourself?” I'm yet to get a good answer. When she was younger, I tried bribing, hiding, substituting, denying, rationing, and flat-out lying. Like the wicked witch on her broom, I’d swoop into her bedroom and demand she hand over the goods.
5 Tips for Parents This Halloween
Although I haven't always won them, my Halloween battles with my daughter have made me a bit wiser about how to approach this holiday as the parent of a diabetic. You can’t control what your child is going to eat or do, but that doesn’t mean you should condone a Baby Ruth bender. Here are some alternatives you can offer to make it easier for your child to abstain.
- Cash for Candy: Trade greenbacks for Paydays. It makes collecting seem fun, even though they know they might not get to eat it all. What kid doesn’t like a pocket full of cash? I usually reward a dime per piece. This may not seem like a great incentive, but trust me, it adds up fast!
- Set Limits: It’s unrealistic to completely deny your child the fruits of their labor. Three or four small pieces of candy per day shouldn't be a problem, as long as they're covered with insulin. By letting you child know what these limits are upfront, it'll give them clear expectations and a little reward to look forward to.
- Plant Treats: School is probably the worst place for candy and sweet treat abuse. During the holidays, parents and teachers bring in copious amounts of sugar to offer the students and rarely offer alternatives for those kids whose diets are restricted. When my children were younger, I would always make a batch of sugar-free cheesecake bites and deliver them before each party. Most teachers are appreciative, and your child will be able to enjoy a delicious treat right along with everybody else.
- Give Toys Not Candy: Perhaps the most common instance of candy over-consumption starts before Halloween right in your own home. If you keep a big bowl of candy ready for those sugar eating trick-or-treaters, you can bet half of it will be eaten by your family before the first knock on the door. Instead, offer tiny toys, balls, tattoos, erasers - all items that can be purchased inexpensively at dollar stores.
- Bone up on Carb Counts: If you're unclear on the carbohydrates in the candies your child will receive this Halloween, this website provides a great guide.