When Your Blood Sugar Gets Low
Check your blood sugar whenever you have symptoms of low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL, treat yourself right away.
1. Eat something that has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Examples are:
- 3 glucose tablets
- One half cup of fruit juice or regular, non-diet soda
- 5 or 6 hard candies
- 1 tablespoon or 15 mL of sugar, plain or dissolved in water
- 1 tbsp of honey or syrup
2. Wait about 15 minutes before eating any more. Be careful not to eat too much. This can cause high blood sugar and weight gain.
3. Check your blood sugar again.
4. If you do not feel better in 15 minutes and your blood sugar is still lower than 70 mg/dL , eat another snack with 15 g of carbohydrates.
You may need to eat a snack with carbohydrates and protein if your blood sugar is in a safer range — over 70 mg/dL — and your next meal is more than an hour away.
Ask your provider how to manage this situation. If these steps for raising your blood sugar do not work, call your doctor right away.
What Causes Low Blood Glucose
- Symptoms occur when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl a condition known as hypoglycemia.
- In most cases, low blood glucose results from overtreatment: Either taking too much diabetes medication or not eating enough food. Higher doses of medicine than the person actually requires can also lead to hypoglycemia.
- People who aim for too-low values on their A1C test tend to experience more frequent drops in blood glucose.
- Vigorous exercise doesn’t just burn calories, it also burns blood glucose! Hypoglycemia can occur unless blood glucose levels are carefully monitored during and after exercise.
- Not eating on a regular basis can deprive the body of glucose and make it difficult to prevent hypoglycemia. Eat balanced meals throughout the day and always keep a snack on hand.
How Can I Prevent Low Blood Glucose
All people with diabetes:
- If you experience low blood glucose often, ask your doctor if setting a higher goal for your A1C level may be appropriate.
- Ask your doctor to look at the test results from your home blood glucose monitor. These results reveal how often you have low blood glucose and when these episodes occur. Your doctor will look for patterns to see if low glucose happens after exercise or at certain times of day, for example.
- If you’ve had low blood glucose in the past, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet so that others will know that you have diabetes in the event of an emergency.
- Keep a fast-acting carbohydrate in your bag, desk drawer, car and other places for easy access. Good options include hard candy, fruit juice or glucose paste or tablets, which can be purchased at most pharmacies.
- Ask your doctor for an emergency glucagon kit. This kit contains a fast- acting medication that can be injected in case of loss of consciousness because of low blood glucose. Keep one kit at home and one at work or school.
- Monitor your blood glucose regularly so that low levels can be corrected before symptoms progress.
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Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
There are many reasons why you may have low blood sugar, including:
- Taking too much insulin.
- Not eating enough carbs for how much insulin you take.
- Timing of when you take your insulin.
- The amount and timing of physical activity.
- Drinking alcohol.
- How much fat, protein, and fiber are in your meal.
- Hot and humid weather.
- Unexpected changes in your schedule.
- Spending time at a high altitude.
- Going through puberty.
What Is High Blood Sugar
High blood sugar occurs when theres a buildup of excess glucose in the bloodstream. This is more often a concern for someone with diabetes than it is for someone without it. Our bodies are typically pretty great at keeping our blood sugar in perfect balance, Deena Adimoolam, M.D., assistant professor of endocrinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF. But in some situations, like when a person has diabetes, high blood sugar can happen.
Blood sugar is measured in milligrams per deciliter , and a fasting blood sugar of greater than 125 mg/dL is considered hyperglycemic, the Cleveland Clinic says. A person can also be considered to have hyperglycemia if their blood glucose level is higher than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating, the Cleveland Clinic says.
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What Causes Low Blood Glucose In People With Diabetes
Low blood glucose levels can be a side effect of insulin or some other medicines that help your pancreas release insulin into your blood. Taking these can lower your blood glucose level.
Two types of diabetes pills can cause low blood glucose
- sulfonylureas, usually taken once or twice per day, which increase insulin over several hours
- meglitinides, taken before meals to promote a short-term increase in insulin
The following may also lower your blood glucose level
Nighttime Low Blood Sugar
While low blood sugar can happen at any time during the day, some people may experience low blood sugar while they sleep. Reasons this may happen include:
- Having an active day.
- Being physically active close to bedtime.
- Taking too much insulin.
- Drinking alcohol at night.
Eating regular meals and not skipping them can help you avoid nighttime low blood sugar. Eating when you drink alcohol can also help. If you think youre at risk for low blood sugar overnight, have a snack before bed.
You may wake up when you have low blood sugar, but you shouldnt rely on that. A continuous glucose monitor can alert you with an alarm if your blood sugar gets low while youre sleeping.
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Food And Low Sugar Causes
The types of foods you eat can bring on low blood sugar. One of the low sugar causes related to insulin is eating too few carbohydrates without decreasing the amount of insulin injected if you suffer from diabetes.
In addition, the timing of insulin injection should change, depending on whether your carbs come in liquid or solid form. Liquid carbs absorb into your body much faster than solid carbs, so the timing of your injection can become tricky.
Likewise, the composition of your meals can affect blood sugar. Amounts of fats, proteins, and fiber affect the absorption of carbohydrates. If you eat a high carbohydrate meal, insulin is produced in higher amounts, trying to bring the glucose into your cells quicker, therefore making your blood sugar drop even quicker in 1-2 hours after the meal, causing reactive hypoglycemia to worsen right after eating and having the need to eat again soon after.
Treating Low Blood Sugar Levels
The diabetes health care team will give you clear guidelines about how to treat hypoglycemia, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
If it’s convenient, test the blood sugar levels before treating your child to confirm that the symptoms are due to hypoglycemia. If blood sugar can’t be checked immediately, don’t delay treating your child’s symptoms you can always do a test after getting the blood sugar back into the normal range.
When blood sugar levels are low, the goal is to get them back up quickly. To do that, give your child sugar or sugary foods that raise the blood glucose level quickly. In general, treatment for hypoglycemia involves:
- having your child eat or drink a form of glucose that works fast, like regular soda, orange juice, or cake frostingor having your child take special tablets or gels that contain glucose. Generally, symptoms will stop about 10 minutes after your child takes sugar.
- rechecking your child’s blood sugar to make sure that the level is no longer low and giving your child food to help prevent the blood sugar from dropping again
- giving glucagon , if symptoms are severe or get worse after your child is given sugar by mouth
For more severe cases of hypoglycemia in which seizures or loss of consciousness happen, giving sugar by mouth may be very difficult or even dangerous. In that case, a glucagon injection should be given.
When possible, adult family members and your child’s caregivers and school staff should know:
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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.
Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar In Cats
The symptoms of low blood sugar in cats, even in the warning stage, are easy to detect and often unsettling to cat owners. A cat with hypoglycemia is quickly losing brain power, resulting in neurologic disorders and an increased appetite as the body relies on food consumption for an energy supply. Depending on how low the felines blood sugar levels have dropped, symptoms could be mild to severe.
Mild Low Blood Sugar
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How Are Low Blood Sugar Levels Treated
Your diabetes health care team will give you guidelines for treating low blood sugar levels, depending on your symptoms. If you can, try to test your blood sugar levels to make sure that your symptoms are because of hypoglycemia. If you canât test blood sugar immediately, donât delay in treating your symptoms you can always check your blood sugar after youâve taken steps to get your blood sugar back up into the normal range.
When blood sugar levels are low, the goal is to get them back up quickly. To do that, you should take in sugar or sugary foods, which raise the blood sugar level quickly. Your health care team might suggest that you:
- Eat, drink, or take something that contains sugar that can get into the blood quickly. Your doctor may tell you to have really sugary foods or drinks or might give you glucose tablets or gel to take all of these can help to raise your blood sugar level fast, which is what you need to do when itâs low.
- Wait about 10 minutes to let the sugar work.
- Recheck your blood sugar level with a glucose meter to see if blood sugar levels are back to normal.
- Get a glucagon shot , if your symptoms are severe or get worse after you eat, drink, or take glucose.
Sometimes, blood sugar levels can get so low that you may not be awake enough to eat or drink something to get them back up. When this happens, you may need a glucagon shot.
Treating An Episode Of Hypoglycaemia
The immediate treatment for hypoglycaemia is to have some sugary food or drink to end the attack.
For example, this could be:
- a glass of fruit juice or non-diet soft drink
- between three and five dextrose tablets
- a handful of sweets
At first you should avoid fatty foods and drinks, such as chocolate and milk, because they don’t usually contain as much sugar and the sugar they do contain may be absorbed more slowly.
After having something sugary, you should have a longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar, a piece of fruit or a sandwich.
It will usually take around 15 minutes to recover from a mild episode of hypoglycaemia. If you have a blood glucose meter, measure your blood sugar again after 15 to 20 minutes. If it’s still too low , you should have some more sugary food or a drink before testing your levels again in another 15 to 20 minutes.
When treating someone else with hypoglycaemia, if the above treatment isn’t effective, you may be able to help them by applying glucose gel to the inside of their cheeks, and gently massaging the outside of their cheeks.
It may take 10 to 15 minutes before they feel better. This shouldn’t be done if the person is drowsy or unconscious because of the risk of choking.
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Preventing A Low Blood Sugar Level
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of getting a low blood sugar level if you:
- Check your blood sugar level regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar level so you can treat it quickly.
- Always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets. If you have a glucagon injection kit, always keep it with you.
- Do not skip meals.
- Be careful when drinking alcohol. Do not drink large amounts, check your blood sugar level regularly, and eat a carbohydrate snack afterwards.
- Be careful when exercising eating a carbohydrate snack before exercise can help to reduce the risk of a hypo. If you take some types of diabetes medicine, your doctor may recommend you take a lower dose before or after doing intense exercise.
- Have a carbohydrate snack, such as toast, if your blood sugar level drops too low while you’re asleep
If you keep getting a low blood sugar level, talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it.
Complications From Spells Of Hypoglycemia
Mildly low blood sugar levels are somewhat common for people with diabetes however, severely low blood sugar levels can be life threatening. They may lead to seizures and nervous system damage if left untreated long enough. Immediate treatment is critical.
Its important to learn to recognize your symptoms and treat them fast. For people at risk for low blood sugar, having a glucagon kit a medication that raises blood sugar levels is important. Talk with your doctor for more information.
You may also want to talk with friends, family members, exercise partners, and co-workers about how to care for you if your blood sugar drops too low.
Its important for them to learn to recognize low blood sugar symptoms and know how to use the glucagon kit, as well as understand the importance of calling 911 if you lose consciousness.
Wearing a medical identification bracelet is a good idea. It can help emergency responders care for you properly if you need emergency attention.
Treat low blood sugar as soon as possible. Avoid driving if you are experiencing low blood sugar, as it can increase your risk for having an accident.
There are several ways that you can prevent low blood sugar.
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When It’s Time To Call A Doctor
If any of the symptoms mentioned have begun to impact your life, such as fatigue so severe you can’t stay awake through the day, it’s a good idea to consult your physician. Dr. Fruge warns that “unstable blood sugar levels could put you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke and it is a red flag for serious health issues” — so blood sugar issues should be taken seriously.
You should also see a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia and haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes or any other underlying condition.
If you do have diabetes and your hypoglycemia isn’t responding to the treatments described above, that’s another good cue to call your health care provider.
If testing reveals you have Type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to continue to test your blood sugar levels as often as instructed by your physician, take insulin regularly and participate in regular exercise. This may mean you will need a new glucose monitoring system, so ask your doctor what they recommend. If you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you’ll most likely need to do the same as for Type 1, as well as working with health care professionals to make lifestyle changes such as improving nutrition and planning workouts. Medication may be necessary as well.
Healthy eating, regular exercise and other lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms and possibly even reverse prediabetes.
Does Everyone Have Symptoms From Hypoglycemia
Some people dont have symptoms or dont notice them. Healthcare providers call that situation hypoglycemia unawareness. People with such a challenge arent aware when they need to do something about their blood sugar. Theyre then more likely to have severe episodes and need medical help. People with hypoglycemia unawareness should check their blood sugar more often.
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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.
What Are The Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar In Dogs
The symptoms of low blood sugar as:
- Loss of appetite or an increased hunger
- Visual instability, such as blurred vision or even blindness, causing your dog to walk cautiously or bump into objects they are used to walking around
- Disorientation and confusion your dog may show an apparent inability to complete basic routine tasks that they are used to performing
- Weakness, low energy, loss of consciousness
- Seizures, although rare
- Tremors, shivering, or uncontrollable shaking
- Heart palpitations
- Unusual behavior
If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, or you believe that they have low blood sugar you should take them to the veterinarian if they are conscious and you do not fear that they will lose consciousness prior to getting to the veterinary clinic.
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