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Tue, Oct-31-00, 18:15
Tuesday October 31 10:29 AM ET

Helping Diabetic Kids Enjoy the Treats of Halloween

By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For kids with diabetes, Halloween can be anything but sweet. But with a little planning, parents can treat kids to a healthy dose of candy, according to doctors at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

``Candy is not cocaine--it is not life threatening,'' Dr. Lori Laffel told Reuters Health. Laffel heads the pediatric unit at Joslin. ``It's so important for kids to always feel included.''

Children with Type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin to process food after a meal. As a result, they require injections of insulin, the hormone that takes sugar (glucose) from the blood after a meal or snack and deposits it into cells throughout the body, to be used as energy.

Sweets are thought to be particularly risky for kids with diabetes because the simple sugar found in candy can cause a rapid spike in blood glucose. However, an overall treatment program that includes good nutrition, exercise, and insulin injections will help kids maintain stable blood glucose levels, Laffel explained.

Parents can help kids to incorporate moderate amounts of candy by helping them to count grams of carbohydrates, the food group that has the greatest effect on blood sugar.

``Carb counting,'' in which the doctor determines how many grams of carbohydrate a person needs each day, is one way people with diabetes manage their disease. By helping kids to figure out how many grams of carbs are in a candy bar and then subtracting that number from the daily allotment, kids can include an occasional candy bar in their diet.

Exercise can also help kids keep their blood sugar levels stable, since physical activity helps the body use insulin more effectively. According to Laffel, exercise is as much a therapy for diabetes as it is a recreation.

Offering kids sugarless gum or other treats such as crayons and stickers can help them enjoy the holiday in good health. Besides, Laffel said, ``kids should not have a whole bag of candy whether the child has diabetes or not.''