The first few years of any new diagnosis can be extremely challenging. It’s been nearly seven years since Coral, my first-born daughter who recently turned eight years old – yay, October babies, was diagnosed with autoimmune Type 1 diabetes. She was only 15 months old in March at diagnosis so a bit too young to go trick-or-treating nor realize we actually stayed in that first Halloween in 2016. She wasn’t on a pump yet and we could barely afford her new Dexcom G5 continuous glucose monitor (CGM), insulin, syringes, glucose meter & strips, and rent in Hawaii – which is outrageously disproportionate to the salaries ~45% below the National average.
She started the Animas Ping pump in 2017 onto Omnipod Classic Eros pods [currently awaiting OP5 like many fellow diabetics] and we quickly learned how to make the most of the diabetes technology we had access to. This was a total game changer because I learned how to interpret her CGM numbers compared to fingersticks, trend arrows, and drop or rise rates. Reading Pumping Insulin and Think Like a Pancreas also helped me to make our own basal rates and I:C or insulin to carb ratio adjustments independently from her new diabetes care team at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, CA. By the age of two years, she became even more pickier with food so, I had to quickly learn how to bolus for her new favorite foods and they were all super carby and tricky at first. I had lived through an abusive deprived childhood and vowed I’d raise her better than I was despite her T1d daily challenges. 2017 was her first Halloween and we, Dparents, have no regrets letting her eat all foods in moderation and learning how to pre-bolus and use extended boluses with her Omnipod insulin pump.
How we do Halloween
I hope you’ll find the following information regarding Halloween activities and treats helpful. As with anything I write or post to my online platforms, take what you can use and share the knowledge. Here are some ideas to get you and your family started on a fun and safe Halloween that’s hopefully a bit less stressful around treats. Reminder: Covid is still very prevalent, airborne, so we are always conscious of that and wear well-fitting face masks when around other people/strangers in crowded outdoor and especially any indoor settings. See my previous Covid blog posts here.
Talk to your T1d kiddo
We’ve been educating Coral about her T1d since she was diagnosed even though she could barely speak a full sentence or recognize and express how she feels. It’s never too early to educate and/or learn something new! Every holiday that is surrounded by foods, we do the following:
- Talk to her and tell her something like, you can have X, Y, and Z foods, but we’ll have to give you an extra shot for that if you stay high 1-2 hours after eating it OR you’ll need a lot of insulin for that and you might not feel well if your blood glucose (BG) spikes too high for a while during and after eating it. We don’t want you to feel sick. So, take it slow and try not to overindulge in too many sugary foods all at once. In short: you gotta work for it if you wanna eat it. If we’re gonna eat “bad,” then it’s gotta be damn gooood.
- Discuss a plan as a family – How many houses will you be trick-or-treating to? How far can your T1d kiddo or younger siblings actually walk? Use that as a gauge as to when to head back home regardless of how much candy has filled their pails/bags. What will you do with all that candy? We actually don’t eat all the candy Coral brings home from trick-or-treating. A lot of it tends to be chocolate, which is too slow for lows (hypoglycemia). So, we end up taking it to her school and donating it to kids in need of Halloween cheer.
- Get organized – We have a couple bins in our pantry labeled “Low Treats 15g” and “Snacks 10g” for all her goodies. She has learned over the years to ASK before grabbing it to treat a hypo. She has snuck and stashed a few Hi-Chew candies in her bedroom only for me to find empty wrappers in her Hello Kitty playhouse or toy bins to the sudden conclusion of why her BGs were mysteriously so damn high. Yes, we reprimanded and reminded her to always ask before eating anything with carbs – never lie about it either. We’ve had her write, “I’m sorry for lying about eating candy without asking first,” on paper or a white board through TK and first grade. Pro Tip: Always use fast-acting carbs like juice, glucose tabs, Juicy Fruit [hard candy], Dum Dums, fresh fruit, Skittles, or Pixie Sticks to treat low BGs. View my candy chart below and please tag me or DM [private accounts] to credit @type1diabetic_life on Instagram or @t1diabetic_life on Twitter if sharing on social media.
Fun alternatives to trick-or-treating
Seek-a-treat – Given that we’ll be in our next wave of Covid cases soon in Los Angeles, although a lack of sufficient testing and reporting, we’re very careful of our surroundings as always. The past two years, during lockdowns and then the deadly Delta variant during the winter, we decided we would forgo trick-or-treating house to strange house. Instead, we purchased some reusable burlap Halloween drawstring bags, filled them with fun size candies and mini toys for Coral and little sister, Kaila. Then, I hid them all over the house and had them find it after eating a well-balanced dinner of meat (protein), veggies, and rice. My girls loved it and I’m sure your young children will too. This is the most Covid-safe option for anyone diabetic or not.
Halloween Fairy – pretend there’s a Halloween Fairy who takes your child’s candy in the middle of the night and replaces it with a long-wished for small toy that your child will play with much longer than those cheap candies would take to devour. Think of how much more excited our children would be to find a toy at the foot of their bed, under their pillow, or in place of most of the candies in their Halloween treat bag.
Keep them busy with arts and crafts – Is there something their teacher might have sent home that inspires you to do something similar and creative? Check to see if you have any white paper plates and have fun decorating them with paint, glitter, or googly eyes into a mummy, pumpkin or black cat with eyes. Find some more crafting ideas on Pinterest and keep them busy through the night with some fun music or a kid-friendly Halloween movie playing on your TV screen.
Decorate some cookies or cupcakes – we found a pumpkin shaped cookie decorating kit at our local grocery store packed with orange crystal sprinkles! We had so much fun working on these this Halloween. See that post or Story on our Instagram. [I couldn’t find a link to the exact cookie decorating kit we bought, but here’s an alternative from Target]. Like most children, Coral and little sis love to eat the sprinkles as they’re decorating any cookies or cupcakes. I make sure Coral’s aware she’s only able to lick the frosting or dab her fingers in the sprinkles if her BG’s dropping from the low 100’s (straight arrow down on Diabox app for Libre2 – soon Libre3/app) and I keep a higher temp basal running as we’re decorating those treats. I time the bolus for when she’s about to eat the cookie and if there isn’t a total carbohydrate count on the packaging, I google it or find a similar serving size online and use my best guess! Extended boluses is a must for almost all foods she eats. Speak with your child’s endocrinologist and or diabetes nurse educator for more guidance on how to time the pre-bolus (if in-range) and work those temp basals to your advantage.
Halloween and Other Food Festivities at School
If your T1d child’s attending a new school, then you’re definitely going to want to catch up to speed with my Parents Guide to School and T1d and Back to School with T1d During Covid and Monkeypox blog posts prior to this section.
Coral’s in second grade and her second year attending in-person learning at her current elementary school. She was doing distance learning from March 13, 2021 at her previous school district, LAUSD, and then, independent study through December 2021 at her current District. We didn’t place her back in-person learning until she was eligible to receive both of her Pfizer Covid vaccines.
By now, her Principal and several faculty members and other parents are all well-aware that I’m that Mom who’s Covid cautious because her daughter has diabetes. Ya damn straight I am [totally owning it]. I ain’t living in denial either.
Anyways, with that said, her first and second grade teacher will usually email me to let me know if they’ll be passing out treats in class for any given holiday. I’ll usually tell Coral’s designated school nurse to save the treats for when she gets home from school. Coral’s disciplined enough to know candy is for lows only. Then, I’ll probably stash ’em away with her other low treats in the pantry. As I briefly mentioned above, sometimes, her school will donate extra candy from Halloween to other children in need so best to keep that in mind before throwing them away.
View a list of popular Halloween candy here or search specific Nutrition Facts from Nutritionvalue.org or Carbmanager.com. Note: It is up to each individual and/or their parents and caregivers to learn how different foods affect their diabetes. Make a log and track how certain foods affect his/her BGs so you can learn how to bolus for it as needed OR how fast it affects BGs to see if its a good item for low treatments. Do this within the first month of diagnosis.
I created a Pre-Bolus chart on Google Drive for others to edit per your individual needs. Please credit me if sharing on social media: @type1diabetic_life on Instagram or @t1diabetic_life on Twitter. TIA!
Have fun and be safe!
Feel free to share your Halloween ideas and favorite treats or activities in the comments below or follow us on Instagram or Twitter. Remember, we don’t strive for perfection. We set realistic goals and crush them. Even if Coral spikes from really fast carbs like candy, we wait and monitor to see if and when her BG finally drops. Not even properly functioning pancreas like us non-diabetic parents make straight lines on a CGM graphs. We ride the waves and roll with the hard punches this T1dlife throws at us [I actually used to surf a lot before moving to California from my home state of Oahu, HI]. We hope you all stay safe and have a Happy Halloween!