Check Your Blood Sugar Often
Regularly checking your blood sugar level can help you keep it in your target range. If youve had low blood sugar episodes in the past, you may want to check your blood sugar levels before driving or operating machinery.
Talk with your doctor about when and how often you should check your blood sugar.
Treating Severely Low Blood Sugar
Blood sugar below 55 mg/dL is considered severely low. You wont be able to treat it using the 15-15 rule. You also may not be able to check your own blood sugar or treat it by yourself, depending on your symptoms. Make sure your family members, friends, and caregivers know your signs of low blood sugar so they can help treat it if needed.
Injectable glucagon is the best way to treat severely low blood sugar. A glucagon kit is available by prescription. Speak with your doctor to see if you should have a kit. Be sure to learn how and when to use it. Let family members and others close to you know where you keep the glucagon kit and make sure theyve been trained in how to use it too.
Its important to contact a doctor for emergency medical treatment immediately after receiving a glucagon injection. If a person faints due to severely low blood sugar, theyll usually wake up within 15 minutes after a glucagon injection. If they dont wake up within 15 minutes after the injection, they should receive one more dose. When the person is awake and able to swallow:
- Feed the person a fast-acting source of sugar .
- Then, have them eat a long-acting source of sugar .
Its also important that friends, family, co-workers, teachers, coaches, and other people you may be around often know how to test your blood sugar and treat severely low blood sugar before it happens.
If any of the following happens, your friend, relative, or helper should call 911:
Treat Low Blood Sugar Early
Treat low blood sugar levels as soon as you notice the symptoms.
- Check your blood sugar often. If you have had diabetes for many years, you may not have symptoms until your blood sugar is very low. Checking your blood sugar regularly and also whenever you think it may be low will take the guesswork out of treating low blood sugar levels.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions for when you first develop your symptoms of low blood sugar or when your blood sugar level is below 70 mg/dL. Encourage others to tell you if they notice you are developing signs of low blood sugar.
- Keep a record of low blood sugar levels. Write down your symptoms and how you treated your low blood sugar. Look for patterns in when and what you ate, your activity , and medicine that could have caused the low blood sugar.
- Notify your doctor. Let her or him know if you are having low blood sugar problems. Your insulin dosage may need to be adjusted.
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How To Treat Someone Who’s Unconscious Or Very Sleepy
Follow these steps:
They may need to go to hospital if they’re being sick , or their blood sugar level drops again.
Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to lose consciousness.
How Should I Use Regular Insulin
Use insulin exactly as directed. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets.
Regular insulin is injected under the skin. A healthcare provider may teach you how to properly use the medication by yourself. Regular insulin must not be given with a pump. Do not inject this medicine into a vein or a muscle.
Read and carefully follow any Instructions for Use provided with your medicine. Do not use insulin if you don’t understand all instructions for proper use. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you don’t understand all instructions.
Prepare an injection only when you are ready to give it. Do not use if the medicine looks cloudy, has changed colors, or has particles in it. Call your pharmacist for new medicine.
Your care provider will show you where on your body to inject this medicine. Use a different place each time you give an injection. Do not inject into the same place two times in a row.
Do not inject this medicine into skin that is damaged, tender, bruised, pitted, thickened, scaly, or has a scar or hard lump.
After using regular insulin, you should eat a meal within 30 minutes.
Never share a syringe with another person, even if the needle has been changed. Sharing syringes can allow infections or disease to pass from one person to another.
You may have low blood sugar and feel very hungry, dizzy, irritable, confused, anxious, or shaky. To quickly treat hypoglycemia, eat or drink a fast-acting source of sugar .
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How Do I Treat Hypoglycemia
A mild case of hypoglycemia can be treated through eating or drinking 15-20g of fast acting carbohydrate such as glucose tablets, sweets, sugary fizzy drinks or fruit juice.
Some people with diabetes may also need to take 15-20g of slower acting carbohydrate if the next meal is not due.
A blood test should be taken after 15-20 minutes to check whether blood glucose levels have recovered. Severe hypoglycemia may require an ambulance, for example if loss of consciousness occurs or a seizure persists for more than 5 minutes.
Severe hypos can be treated with glucagon if a glucagon injection kit is available and in date.
- Read more detail on how to treat hypoglycemia
How Do I Treat Low Blood Glucose
If you begin to feel one or more symptoms of low blood glucose, check your blood glucose level. If your blood glucose level is below your target or less than 70 mg/dL, follow these steps
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What Is A Severe Low
A severe low is defined as hypoglycemia that a person is unable to treat themselves. That is, they cant recognize that they are low and treat it with a fast-acting carbohydrate. If you sleep alone, and there is no one to help you recognize a low, it is generally recommended that you maintain a higher average blood sugar overnight if severe lows are a risk.
For more information about managing low blood sugars, click here.
For information about recognizing and treating hypoglycemia, click here.
Lows can happen in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The inability to recognize a low is more common if you have longstanding diabetes. For more information about why you should be concerned about low blood sugars, read Lori Berards expert blog.
Regular Insulin Side Effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of insulin allergy: redness, swelling, sweating, itchy skin rash over the entire body, trouble breathing, fast heartbeats, feeling like you might pass out, or swelling in your tongue or throat.
low potassium – leg cramps, constipation, irregular heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, increased thirst or urination, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness or limp feeling.
Common insulin side effects may include:
low blood sugar
swelling in your hands or feet
weight gain or
thickening or hollowing of the skin where you injected the medicine.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
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Rash And Allergic Reaction
Less than 4 percent of people with diabetes have a hypersensitivity or allergy to insulin, but if youre one of those 4 percent, its a significant challenge.
Its believed that a persons allergic reaction is in response to additives and peptides within commercially manufactured insulin.
The symptoms of an insulin allergy include:
- Swelling at the injection site
- Intense rash, hives, and itching
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling within your throat and mouth
- Difficulty breathing
Insulin allergies can be local or systemic, as well as immediate or delayed, explains a 2016 study. The underlying mechanisms of insulin-associated allergy can be divided into three types: type I , type III , and type IV hypersensitivity. Type I hypersensitivity, which manifests as local edema, itching, wheals, and flares, is the most common form.
To date, there is no single treatment method that has proven effective enough to be widely used.
Various treatment options, ranging from symptom relief using simple antihistaminics to more complicated insulin desensitization therapy, have been advocated for managing allergic reactions to insulin, explains the study.
While steroids can also significantly help with the allergic reaction, they create tremendous insulin resistance and make blood sugar management very difficult, so its not a realistic long-term solution.
Listen To Your Doctor
If you follow a meal plan or take medications that increase insulin to manage low blood sugar, its important to stick to the plan your doctor prescribed to help prevent drops in your blood sugar level.
Not eating the right foods or taking the right medications at the correct times can cause your blood sugar to drop. Check in often with your doctor so they can adjust your treatment plan if and when necessary.
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What Causes A Low Blood Sugar Level
In people with diabetes, the main causes of a low blood sugar level are:
- the effects of medicine especially taking too much insulin, medicines called sulfonylureas , medicines called glinides , or some antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C
- skipping or delaying a meal
- not eating enough carbohydrate foods in your last meal, such as bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes and fruit
- exercise, especially if it’s intense or unplanned
- drinking alcohol
Sometimes there’s no obvious reason why a low blood sugar level happens.
Very occasionally, it can happen in people who do not have diabetes.
Is The Low Predictable Or Unpredictable
Generally, a low blood sugar is predictable if there is a reasonable explanation for it . Unpredictable lows are when no obvious reason can be found. In this case, the unpredictable low could be a one off that occasionally happens and is more common with cloudy or N insulin. If it happens more than once, it could be a sign that you need to change your insulin routine either the dose or type. For example, it could be a change in your weight or that the liver is not making as much sugar overnight , or just being on the wrong type of insulin that is peaking in the night.
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How Do I Take Insulin
Insulin is normally injected under the skin with a very small needle. It can also be taken with an insulin pen. Your doctor will teach you exactly how to inject insulin, but here are the basics:
Wash your hands.
Take the plastic cover off the insulin bottle and wipe the top of the bottle with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.
Pull back the plunger of the syringe, drawing air into the syringe equal to the dose of insulin that you are taking . Put the syringe needle through the rubber top of the insulin bottle. Inject air into the bottle by pushing the syringe plunger forward. Turn the bottle upside down.
Know That When You Check Your Blood Sugar The Number Tells Us How Well Your Last Dose Of Insulin Worked
For example, meal rapid-acting insulin peaks in 1 to 2 hours and lasts 3 to 4 hours. Your blood sugar taken 2 hours after the meal tells us how well the peak of the insulin covered the peak of the blood sugar after you ate. Your blood sugar taken before the next meal tells us how well the insulin worked during the time your carbohydrate was breaking down.
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What Happens If I Overdose
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. Insulin overdose can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia. Symptoms include drowsiness, confusion, blurred vision, numbness or tingling in your mouth, trouble speaking, muscle weakness, clumsy or jerky movements, seizure , or loss of consciousness.
How Do I Check My Blood Sugar
You use a blood glucose meter to check your blood sugar. This device uses a small drop of blood from your finger to measure your blood sugar level. You can get the meter and supplies in a drug store or by mail.
Read the directions that come with your meter to learn how to check your blood sugar. Your health care team also can show you how to use your meter. Write the date, time, and result of the test in your blood sugar record. Take your blood sugar record and meter to each visit and talk about your results with your health care team.
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Do Not Drive When You Have Low Blood Sugar
It’s very dangerous. If you’re driving and you have hypoglycemia symptoms, pull off the road, check your blood sugar, and eat a sugary food. Wait at least 15 minutes, check your blood sugar, and repeat these steps if necessary. Eat a protein and carbohydrate source before you drive on.
Be prepared. Keep a sugar source in your car at all times for emergencies.
How Serious Is Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemic episodes can range from mild to severe.
Mild hypoglycemia can usually be treated by the individual and are to be expected to some degree in people on insulin. Mild hypos are not associated with significant long term health problems unless they are occurring very regularly or for long periods of time.
Severe hypoglycemia, however, will require treatment from someone else and may require an ambulance. Severe hypos can lead to immediate danger if not treated immediately. Whilst rare, severe hypos can potentially lead to coma and death.
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Planning For Sick Days
Your body releases stress hormones when you are sick, which can cause hyperglycemia. Keep taking your insulin and other diabetes medications, even if you are throwing up. If you have ketones and your blood sugar is above 240 mg/dL, call your doctor. They might also want you to call if:
- You have diarrhea that lasts more than 6 hours
- You are throwing up
- You have a high fever or trouble breathing
- You feel very sleepy or confused
Continue checking your blood sugar levels and keep track of the results.
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How Can I Be Better Prepared For Hypoglycemia
You can take some steps to be ready for hypoglycemia:
- Be aware of the symptoms and treat them early.
- Carry some fast-acting carbs with you all the time.
- Check your glucose levels frequently, especially around meals and exercise.
- Inform family, friends and co-workers so they know what do if you need help.
- Talk to your healthcare provider regularly to make and update your plan.
- Wear a medical bracelet that lets people know you have diabetes. Carry a card in your purse or wallet with instructions for hypoglycemia.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hypoglycemia is quite common in people with diabetes. If not treated, it can cause troubling symptoms, and even serious health problems. Fortunately, you can avoid hypoglycemic episodes by monitoring your blood sugar. You can also make small adjustments to eating and exercising routines.
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Checking For Low Blood Sugar Levels
The warning signs of hypoglycemia are the body’s natural response to low blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels fall too low, the body releases the hormone adrenaline, which helps get stored glucose into the bloodstream quickly. This can make someone:
- start shaking
- have an increased heart rate
If the hypoglycemia isn’t treated, more serious symptoms may happen, such as drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
The only way to know for sure if you’re having a low blood sugar level is to test. Blood sugar levels can be tested with a . This computerized device measures and displays the amount of glucose in a blood sample. But if you can’t quickly check your blood sugar level, it’s important to treat yourself for hypoglycemia immediately to prevent symptoms from getting worse.
Sometimes a person with diabetes may have symptoms of low blood sugar levels, but blood sugar levels are not actually low. This is a called a false reaction. The hormone adrenaline is not just released when blood sugar drops too low it’s also released when blood sugar levels fall quickly when they’re too high. If you’re having a false reaction, you might actually have blood sugar levels in a healthy range but feel as if you have low blood sugar. Testing blood sugar levels before treating yourself for hypoglycemia can help you figure out if you’re having a false reaction.