Need help navigating life with diabetes? You can always Ask D’Mine… Welcome back to our weekly Q&A column, hosted by longtime type 1 and diabetes author Wil Dubois.

With Halloween just around the corner, Wil’s addressing the ever-sensitive topic of trick-or-treating sweets and kids with type 1 diabetes. Parenting opinions may vary, but Wil has some insight here about making Halloween fun without concentrating on candy…

{ Got your own questions? Email us at }

*   *   *

Josephine, D-mom from Missouri, writes:  Hi, Wil. This is our first Halloween with diabetes and I’m at a loss for how to handle trick-or-treating for my son. He’s 9 years old and was diagnosed this Spring. Sending him out to extort the neighbors for a ton of candy he can’t eat seems like a bad message, but on the other hand I’m worried about all the changes he’s already had to endure. Your thoughts?

Wil@Ask D’Mine answers: If he enjoys the process of trick-or-treating—the dressing up, the venturing out at night, the mysteries of what he might get at each house—then by all means, you should let him trick-or-treat. In fact, I’ll go out on the parental advice limb and say that you really must let him go. Diabetes is a lot to deal with, but there’s much, as a parent, that you can do to keep it from becoming an all-encompassing, evil, destructive force.

In short, don’t let diabetes get in the way of childhood.

If, on the other hand, he’s one of those rare kids who’s just not that into Halloween, then you can skip it. But if that’s the case, I recommend you empower him to make the final call. You could say something like, “What do you think? I know you don’t really enjoy the process all that much, and the candy really isn’t all that great for your diabetes… what do you want to do?”

Maybe he’d rather dress up and man the door at home, passing out little bags of nuts and beef jerky. I suggest those two things so you’re giving out appropriate treats for all the other little T1 monsters that come knocking at your door.

Meanwhile, if he does want to head out after sunset, may I suggest you should dress him up as a surgeon this year? That way, when he gets home with the loot, you two can perform triage on the candy together as a team. The game here is to use the Halloween take as a learning tool.

Back at the ol’ homestead after his sortie, sort the candy from healthiest to “sickest”—in terms of its relative blood sugar impact, just as doctors at a disaster scene would sort patients by level of injury. I think you’ll be surprised at how much variation there is in the carb impact of various candies. And just like in a real disaster, I promise you, some of the loot is gonna be dead on arrival. Or at least, beyond saving.

Now, for any of you parents out there who think this sounds too invasive, I disagree. Forty-five years ago, my mom helicoptered over me on my arrival back at basecamp Halloween night. And this was decades before my diabetes, mind you. Still, apples needed to be cut in half to look for razor blades and needles, ruptured wrappers carefully inspected for tampering, and the candy necklaces thrown straight into the trash because she’d read somewhere that they were frequently laced with poison by nefarious children-hating psychopaths.

And that was back in the safe ol’ 70s.

Now, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, D-kiddos can have candy. Absolutely. Yes, we need to be careful about the volume, and a chaser of insulin is required, but the fruits of his labors shouldn’t be completely taken from him. That would just be mean. And it’s unnecessary.

Of course, the issue here is that a proper Halloween outing can net him enough candy for a dozen emergency room visits for DKA. And what you do about that excess depends on the nature of the child. When my son Rio was little, I’d get out his trick-or-treating container and find it was still full of the previous year’s loot. All petrified, of course. Come to think of it, my sister Kathy was that way, too — with both Halloween candy and Easter candy.

Genetics. Powerful stuff.

Anyway, back on topic. If your son is one of those kids who historically had a hard time keeping his hand out of the cookie jar, then you need to get rid of the bulk of the candy. But again, the trick is to empower HIM to choose the nature of the disposition. First, set aside some favorites. Then let him retain 10% of the goodies for slow and steady dispersal over the coming weeks. You know. Until the frickin’ Christmas candy arrives.

To get the remaining 90% out of the house, you could consider having him donate it to a school or church group. Or take it to a nursing home. Or support our armed forces: Operation Gratitude gratefully accepts Halloween candy and puts it in care packages for our overseas troops and stateside first responders. Another group called Soldiers’ Angels does something, as do dozens of other groups like these. 

Oh, and one final thing about trick-or-treating. It usually entails a fair amount of walking, and the exercise is of course good for his diabetes. Plus, who knows? Maybe he’ll get “lucky” and have a low out on the hunt, and be able to dig into that giant sack of fast-acting glucose. As medicine.

Just don’t let him eat the candy necklace. My mom’s worst fears might actually be true.


Will Dubois lives with type 1 diabetes and is the author of five books on the illness, including “Taming The Tiger” and “Beyond Fingersticks.” He spent many years helping treat patients at a rural medical center in New Mexico. An aviation enthusiast, Wil lives in Las Vegas, NM, with his wife and son, and one too many cats.



This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. Bottom Line: You still need the guidance and care of a licensed medical professional.