If A Person Is Unconscious
If a person loses consciousness because of severe hypoglycaemia, they need to be put into the recovery position and given an injection of the hormone glucagon . The injection will raise their blood glucose level.
The injection should be carried out by a friend or family member who knows what they’re doing, or by a trained healthcare professional.
You should dial 999 to request an ambulance if:
- a glucagon injection kit isn’t available
- there’s nobody available who’s trained to give the injection
- the injection is ineffective after 10 minutes
Never try to put food or drink into the mouth of someone who’s unconscious as they could choke.
If you’re able to give a glucagon injection and the person regains consciousness, they should eat some longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar or a sandwich.
You should continue to monitor the person for signs of recurring symptoms in case they need to be treated again.
How Is Hypoglycemia Treated In A Child
Treatment will depend on your childs symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
For children with diabetes, the goal of treatment is to maintain a safe blood glucose level. This is done by:
Testing blood glucose often
Learning to recognize symptoms
Treating the condition quickly
To treat low blood glucose quickly, your child should eat or drink something with sugar such as:
A hard candy
Don’t use carbohydrate foods high in protein such as milk or nuts. They may increase the insulin response to dietary carbohydrates.
Blood glucose levels should be checked every 15 to 20 minutes until they are above 100 dg/dL.
If hypoglycemia is severe, your child may need a glucagon injection. Talk with your childs healthcare team about this treatment.
Hypoglycemia Tests And Diagnosis
To diagnose nondiabetic hypoglycemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about any medicines you take. Theyâll want to know all about your health and any history of diseases or stomach surgery.
Theyâll check your blood glucose level, especially when you are having symptoms. Theyâll also check to see if you feel better when your sugar goes back to a normal level.
If your doctor suspects hypoglycemia, you may have to fast until you start to have symptoms. Theyâll test your blood glucose level at different times throughout the fast.
To check for reactive hypoglycemia, you may have to take a test called a mixed-meal tolerance test . For this, you take a special drink that raises your blood glucose. The doctor will check your blood glucose levels over the next few hours.
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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.
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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How Common Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose is common among people with type 1 diabetes and among people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin or some other diabetes medicines. In a large global study of people with diabetes who take insulin, 4 in 5 people with type 1 diabetes and nearly half of those with type 2 diabetes reported a low blood sugar event at least once over a 4-week period.2
Severely low blood glucose, defined as when your blood glucose level drops so low you cant treat it yourself, is less common. Among U.S. adults with diabetes who take insulin or some diabetes medicines that help the pancreas release insulin into the blood, 2 in 100 may develop severely low blood glucose each year.3
What To Eat During An Episode
If you have an episode of reactive hypoglycemia, you can use food to help restore normal blood sugar levels. This is accomplished with the “15-15 Rule,” which involves eating 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates and checking your blood sugar 15 minutes later to see if the levels have normalized.
Carbohydrates are essentially sugar molecules. Fast-acting carbohydrates are certain types offoods or beverages that can quickly raise the blood sugar level.
If the blood glucose level is still below 70 mg/dL after 15 minutes, you would eat another serving and check again in 15 minutes.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia
Mild hypoglycemia can cause such symptoms as:
Severe hypoglycemia can also cause these symptoms:
- not responding or waking up
Teach your child about the symptoms of low blood sugar and what to do. Even young kids who can’t describe their symptoms can learn to tell an adult when they don’t feel well. Help your child understand that they need treatment when they dont feel well. And explain how to find an adult who can help them.
Some people with diabetes can’t sense the early warning signs of low blood sugar. They may not recognize they need quick treatment. This can lead to more serious symptoms as blood sugar levels continue to fall. If you think your child cant sense what low blood sugar feels like, tell the diabetes care team.
What Causes Low Blood Sugar
Despite advances in the treatment of diabetes, low blood sugar episodes occur as a side effect of many treatments for diabetes. In fact, these episodes are often the limiting factor in achieving optimal blood sugar control, because many medications that are effective in treating diabetes carry the risk of lowering the blood sugar level too much, causing symptoms.
In large scale studies looking at tight control in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, low blood sugars occurred more often in the patients who were managed most intensively. This is important for patients and physicians to recognize, especially as the goal for treating patients with diabetes becomes tighter control of blood sugar.
While people who do not have any metabolic problems can complain of symptoms that resemble low blood sugar, true hypoglycemia usually occurs in people with diabetes mellitus . People with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance also can have low blood sugars on occasion if their high circulating insulin levels are further challenged by a prolonged period of fasting. There are other rare causes for the condition, such as insulin-producing tumors and certain medications.
These uncommon causes of hypoglycemia will not be discussed in this article, which will primarily focus on the condition occurring with type 1 or 2 diabetes and its treatment.
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Key Points About Hypoglycemia In Children
Hypoglycemia occurs when the blood glucose is too low to fuel the brain and the body.
It may be a condition by itself, or may be a complication of diabetes or another disorder.
To treat low blood glucose right away, your child should eat or drink something with sugar, such as orange juice, milk, cake icing, or a hard candy. They should follow with food with complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein, such as a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread.
Severe or long-lasting hypoglycemia may result in seizures and serious brain injury.
Dont Drive When You Have Low Blood Sugar
It’s 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 needed. Eat a protein and carbohydrate source before you drive on. Be prepared. Keep a sugar source, such as glucose tablets, in your car at all times for emergencies.
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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.
What Can I Do To Prevent Hypoglycemia In My Child
Not all episodes of hypoglycemia can be prevented. Most children with type 1 diabetes will have hypoglycemia. The chances of severe hypoglycemia go down as your child gets older. But you can help prevent severe episodes by:
Testing your childs blood glucose often, including at night
Checking that the glucose test strips are not outdated and match the glucose meter
Other ways to minimize or prevent hypoglycemia include making sure your child:
Takes medicines at the right time
Eats enough food
Doesnt skipping meals
Checks blood glucose before exercising
Eats a healthy snack if needed. The snack should include complex carbohydrates and some fat, if possible.
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.
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
The Dangers Of Low Blood Glucose
At some time, most people with diabetes experience the sweating and shakiness that occurs when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl a condition known as hypoglycemia. The average person with type 1 diabetes may experience symptoms of low blood glucose up to two times a week. However, not all are aware that these symptoms can rapidly progress to seizures, coma and even death if hypoglycemia is severe. Though hypoglycemia can be common and occur repeatedly in some people with diabetes, symptoms of low blood glucose should always be taken seriously. People with diabetes and their families, friends or coworkers should be prepared to act quickly and responsibly at the earliest signs of low blood glucose.
Signs And Symptoms Of Low Blood Glucose
Each person’s reaction to low blood glucose is different. Learn your own signs and symptoms of when your blood glucose is low. Taking time to write these symptoms down may help you learn your own symptoms of when your blood glucose is low. From milder, more common indicators to most severe, signs and symptoms of low blood glucose include:
- Feeling shaky
- Color draining from the skin
- Feeling sleepy
- Feeling weak or having no energy
- Blurred/impaired vision
- Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks
- Nightmares or crying out during sleep
The only sure way to know whether you are experiencing low blood glucose is to check your blood glucose levels, if possible. If you are experiencing symptoms and you are unable to check your blood glucose for any reason, treat the hypoglycemia.
A low blood glucose level triggers the release of epinephrine , the fight-or-flight hormone. Epinephrine is what can cause the symptoms of hypoglycemia such as thumping heart, sweating, tingling, and anxiety.
If the blood sugar glucose continues to drop, the brain does not get enough glucose and stops functioning as it should. This can lead to blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, confused thinking, slurred speech, numbness, and drowsiness. If blood glucose stays low for too long, starving the brain of glucose, it may lead to seizures, coma, and very rarely death.
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What Causes Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia can happen for different reasons. Anyone with diabetes can get low blood sugar, even people who follow their care plan carefully. Sugar levels can drop if your child:
- skips or delays meals or snacks or doesn’t eat as much carbohydrate-containing food as expected when taking their diabetes medicine. This happens often in kids who develop an illness that causes loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting.
- takes too much insulin, takes the wrong type of insulin, or takes insulin at the wrong time
- exercises more than usual without eating extra snacks or adjusting the dosage of diabetes medicines
Why Am I Having Lows
If you are experiencing low blood glucose and youre not sure why, bring a record of blood glucose, insulin, exercise, and food data to a health care provider. Together, you can review all your data to figure out the cause of the lows.
The more information you can give your health care provider, the better they can work with you to understand what’s causing the lows. Your provider may be able to help prevent low blood glucose by adjusting the timing of insulin dosing, exercise, and meals or snacks. Changing insulin doses or the types of food you eat may also do the trick.
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What Are Clinical Trials For Low Blood Glucose
Clinical trialsand other types of clinical studiesare part of medical research and involve people like you. When you volunteer to take part in a clinical study, you help doctors and researchers learn more about disease and improve health care for people in the future.
Researchers are studying many aspects of low blood glucose levels in diabetes, such as
- how to diagnose and treat low blood glucose among people with diabetes
- medicines that can treat symptoms of low blood glucose in people with hypoglycemia unawareness
- educational approaches to reduce fear of low blood glucose, which can make it harder for you to control your diabetes
Severe Low Blood Sugar
As your low blood sugar gets worse, you may experience more serious symptoms, including:
- Feeling weak.
- Having difficulty walking or seeing clearly.
- Acting strange or feeling confused.
- Having seizures.
Severe low blood sugar is below 54 mg/dL. Blood sugar this low may make you faint . Often, youll need someone to help you treat severe low blood sugar.
People with diabetes may experience low blood sugar as often as once or twice a week, even when managing their blood sugar closely. Knowing how to identify and treat it is important for your health. Learn how to treat low blood sugar.
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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.
What Is A Continuous Glucose Monitor
Besides a glucometer, you can also monitor your blood sugar with a continuous glucose monitor. These monitors are devices connected to the body all day, allowing quick access to information anytime you need it. These monitors help prevent surprise highs or lows in blood sugar and address them quickly.
There are other things you can do to avoid blood sugar crash if you have diabetes, including:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Avoiding sugary foods and drinks outside of mealtimes
- Eating small portions
- Avoiding restricting or cutting out full food groups
- Planning ahead
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How Can I Prevent Hypoglycemic Episodes
The key to preventing hypoglycemic events is managing diabetes:
- Follow your healthcare providers instructions about food and exercise.
- Track your blood sugar regularly, including before and after meals, before and after exercise and before bed.
- Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
- When you do have a hypoglycemic event, write it down. Include details such as the time, what you ate recently, whether you exercised, the symptoms and your glucose level.
Nighttime Low Blood Sugars
You may experience a low blood sugar night. The low blood sugar might wake you up and your symptoms might be similar to those you have during the day. However, the symptoms may be different. You might have nightmares, sleep poorly, perspire, or feel hot and cold. In the morning you may have a headache, feel nauseated, or feel confused. Notify your doctor if this happens. Check your blood sugar at the time you have the symptoms.
Treatment for a low blood sugar that occurs at night is the same as described earlier.
Your doctor may request that you check a 3:00 a.m. blood sugar 1 to 2 times per week in order to detect any low blood sugars during the night.
Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.
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