Diabetic children can still enjoy trick-or-treating

October 26, 2006

Halloween is synonymous with ghosts, goblins and trick-or-treating for bags of candy.

But for a child with diabetes, a holiday associated with candy does not mean they have to be left out.

Sylvia Hough, associate director of the American Diabetes Association Central New York Chapter, said the fun part for kids is actually going out and trick-or-treating. Hough said she had her diabetic daughter sell the candy she collected to the rest of the family. That money then could be used to purchase anything she wanted. Hough says many families are doing this.

“Try not to make the child feel any different than any other child,” Hough said.

Lori Laffel, chief of the pediatrics program with Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, said the most important childhood holiday for families and many children is Halloween.

“When a child is diagnosed … one of the first things that cross their mind is that they’ll suddenly be restricted from participating in this really important childhood holiday,” Laffel said. “One thing we want to say is that children with diabetes should always feel included.”

Whether a child has diabetes or not it’s important to have guidelines, Laffel said.

“Maybe they can save a few of these snack-size treats … but the majority of their candy … they can trade for a favorite book they wanted, some music, a day at the movies … or some other family activity, “Laffel said.

Children want to be participants, Laffel said, and the event is often more important than the candy.

Patrick Holt, 6, of Whitesboro was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 15 months old. As his mother, Kristen Holt, can attest, “It goes beyond the scope of candy.”

Because blood sugar is affected by activity level, with Patrick running around trick-or-treating they check his blood sugar every half an hour, Kristen Holt said.

“The more active a diabetic is, the more chance their blood sugar is going to get low,” she said.

Once the treats are collected, the candies Patrick wants are worked into his diet.

“His whole diabetic regimen is based on carbohydrate counting,” Kristen Holt said. “If he wants to bring a Reese’s the next day in his lunch, that’s OK. It just has to be counted into his diet … .”

On Halloween his parents will check on him at 11 p.m. and again at 2 a.m. Depending on his levels, he may need to be checked again at 5 a.m.

Sue Carman of Rome is having her first Halloween with 6-year-old daughter, Jaclyn, who was diagnosed in February.

“We’re going to treat it as a normal holiday for her. She’s going to go trick-or-treating. Our friends and family who know she’s a diabetic will be giving her more healthy things.” Diane Butler of Westernville is no stranger to holidays with a diabetic child. Her son, Donald, now 16, was diagnosed when he was 7.

“We encourage family to buy healthy snacks, such as fruits, pretzels, crackers …” Butler said. “When looking at giving him a little bit of sweets, we’d pick out a few … The rest of the bag I would buy from him and take him shopping afterwards … .”

The American Diabetes Association Central New York Chapter conducts an annual Halloween party for kids to dress up and play games.

For information on the party or how to make Halloween enjoyable for a diabetic child, call 315-735-6434.