Prick-or-Treat: Halloween and Diabetes


Have you ever dressed up in a diabetes-themed Halloween costume? Dug through the trash to find a discarded candy wrapper, hunting for the carb count? Or maybe not even spared a thought about diabetes on Halloween? 

I talked with members of the diabetes online community to see how diabetes has played into their Halloween celebrations.  Between people dressing up as diabetes devices, bartering and trading their candy haul, and even being diagnosed with diabetes on Halloween, the answers were as varied as the candy in a plastic pumpkin bucket.

For many, Halloween is a great time to stock up on low blood sugar treatments.   Brianna Wolin said, “We all know Halloween is just the more known name for “best time of year to buy low treatments at good prices in bulk.”  Zoe Heineman, also living with type 1 diabetes, added, “I buy half price candy after Halloween and use it for lows, especially the little candy corns and pumpkins.”

Halloween as a diagnosis date came up a few times.  “I was diagnosed on Halloween,” said Kelly Kunik.   “A nurse dressed like a clown actually confirmed to me that I had diabetes. I was trying to convince her to let me go trick-or-treating – I promised her that my parents and I would come back the next day to find out if if I had diabetes.”

“She was all like, ‘Honey you have diabetes!’  That would be the day I started to dislike clowns.”

Diabetes-centric costumes were clearly a theme. (And here’s where I’ll admit that when I was a kid, I dressed up as a lancing device, the complement to my PWD friend’s glucose meter costume.  Photo buried somewhere in my mom’s basement.)  My friend Brooke, who I met at diabetes camp, said, “When I worked at camp years ago there was a Halloween weekend and I was a bottle of NPH and my friend was a bottle of regular – yes, I know old school diabetes! Shower curtain liners, sharpies, foam circles, silver and orange hunting hats.”

Prick-or-Treat:  Halloween and Diabetes 2

Heather’s costume idea took a slightly more cryptic tone.  “There was the year I went to a pumpkin carving party and everyone was told to dress as their greatest fear. My costume was of a denied health insurance claim. Not visually interesting, but very real.”

Hannah McDonald doesn’t limit her diabetes dressing-up to Halloween.  “I’ve never had a diabetes themed costume, but a few years back I dressed up my insulin for Halloween out of sheer boredom and silliness.”  

And of course, who can resist dressing up as an insulin pump itself?  Not Amanda.  Her mom pitched in and actually made her costume.  “People thought I was a beeper, or a candy bar.”    

But what about all that candy?  Trading candy for a toy or money isn’t unique to the diabetes community – ever heard of the Switch Witch? – but kids with diabetes may have been on the cutting edge when it came to candy swaps. 

“As a kid, my mom used to buy my Halloween candy from me after I had picked out a few pieces,” shared Laura Dunn (T1D).  “She’d then use it as a birthday present for my grandfather whose birthday was in early November. I remember loving the tradition…especially when we visited my grandparents for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and he’d sneak me a few pieces of Halloween candy from his stash.”

“Both my brother and I have type 1 and our parents didn’t want us to miss out on the Halloween experience,” said Cait Murphy.  “So we got to go trick-or-treating, but when we came home after our parents let us pick out 20 pieces of candy then they’d take the rest and give us money to go to the toy store.”

Prick-or-Treat:  Halloween and Diabetes 1

Juliet Marie agreed.  “My mom did the same – I always got a new toy for the candy.”  And she added, “I still feel like I should get something that day since it’s my diagnosis day!”

Way back in the day, my first Halloween experience after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes came barely a month later, sending me out trick-or-treating with my family and subsequently having my breath sniffed for evidence of having sneaked a Twix bar (or three).  But what I remember most is how consistently diabetes took a back seat to having fun, and how carbs took a backseat to costumes. 

However you celebrate Halloween, stay safe!

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5 years ago

I always have small toys in my treat basket that kids can take instead of candy. Bouncy Balls, spider rings, etc. Just in case.

5 years ago

Too funny. I was diagnosed the morning after Halloween and I had to throw out all of my candy.

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