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What Happens If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

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What Should You Do In An Emergency

Low Blood Sugar

If mild or moderate hypoglycemia isn’t treated right away, it can turn into severe hypoglycemia. People with severe hypoglycemia usually pass out. If you pass out, someone should 911 right away.

If you have a health problem that tends to cause low blood sugar, it’s a good idea to teach your family, friends, and coworkers about what symptoms to watch for and what to do. You may also want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.

Current as of: April 13, 2022

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.

Examples Of Easily Digestible Carbohydrates

  • 1/2 cup of juice or regular soda
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 4 or 5 saltine crackers
  • 3 or 4 pieces of hard candy or glucose tablets
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

Very low blood sugar is a medical emergency. If you or someone else with diabetes is experiencing severe symptoms, such as unconsciousness, its important to administer a medication called glucagon and contact emergency services immediately.

If youre at risk for low blood sugar, its important to talk with your doctor about getting a prescription for glucagon.

You should never give an unconscious person anything by mouth, as it could cause them to choke. If you have diabetes, make sure your family and friends know not to do this if you lose consciousness.

Low blood sugar can occur for a number of reasons. Its usually a side effect of diabetes treatment.

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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.
  • Use a continuous glucose monitor or flash monitor to see how your blood sugar levels are changing. Ask your diabetes care team about getting a monitor if you do not already have one.
  • 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.

What Should I Do If My Blood Sugar Is Low Right Before A Meal

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  • Take quick-acting carbohydrate.
  • Wait 5 minutes so your blood sugar starts to come up.
  • If you are feeling better, take your insulin dose to cover the carbohydrate you will eat.
  • Do not take extra insulin to cover the quick-acting carbohydrate you took for your low blood sugar.
  • Start eating right away.
  • Also Check: How Do Carbs Convert To Sugar

    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

  • Eat or drink 15 to 20 grams of glucose or carbohydrates right away. Examples include
  • four glucose tablets or one tube of glucose gel.
  • 1/2 cup of fruit juicenot low-calorie or reduced-sugar juice. If you have kidney disease, dont drink orange juice because it has a lot of potassium. Apple, grape, or cranberry juice are good options.
  • 1/2 can of sodanot low-calorie or reduced-sugar soda.
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or corn syrup.
  • Wait 15 minutes and check your blood glucose level again. If your glucose level is still low, eat or drink another 15 to 20 grams of glucose or carbohydrates.
  • Check your blood glucose level again after another 15 minutes. Repeat these steps until your glucose level is back to your target range.
  • If your next meal is more than 1 hour away, have a snack to keep your blood glucose level within a range that is healthy for you. Try crackers or a piece of fruit.
  • How Is Hypoglycemia Diagnosed In A Child

    The healthcare provider will ask about your childs symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your familys health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have blood tests to check blood sugar levels.

    When a child with diabetes has symptoms of hypoglycemia, the cause is most often an insulin reaction.

    For children with symptoms of hypoglycemia who dont have diabetes, the healthcare provider may:

    • Measure levels of blood sugar and different hormones while the child has symptoms

    • See if symptoms are relieved when the child eats food or sugar

    • Do tests to measure insulin action

    Your child may need to do a supervised fasting study in the hospital. This lets healthcare providers test for hypoglycemia safely.

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    What If I Have Severe Low Blood Glucose And Cant Treat Myself

    Glucagona hormone that raises blood glucose levelsis the best way to treat severely low blood glucose. Available as an injection or a nasal spray, glucagon will quickly raise your blood glucose level. Your doctor can prescribe you a glucagon kit for use in case of an emergency.

    If your blood glucose level drops very low, you wont be able to treat it by yourself. Be prepared to address severely low blood glucose by

    • talking with your doctor or health care team about when and how to use a glucagon emergency kit. If you have an emergency kit, regularly check the date on the package to make sure it hasnt expired.
    • teaching your family, friends, and coworkers when and how to give you glucagon. Tell them to call 911 right away after giving you glucagon or if you dont have a glucagon emergency kit with you.
    • wearing a medical alert identification bracelet or pendant. A medical alert ID tells other people that you have diabetes and need care right away. Getting prompt care can help prevent the serious problems that low blood glucose levels can cause.

    How To Treat A Low Blood Sugar Level Yourself

    What is Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)?

    Follow these steps if your blood sugar level is less than 3.5mmol/L or you have hypo symptoms:

  • Have a sugary drink or snack like a small glass of fizzy drink or fruit juice, 4 to 5 jelly babies, 3 to 6 glucose tablets or 1 to 2 tubes of glucose gel.
  • Test your blood sugar after 10 minutes if it’s improved and you feel better, move on to step 3. If there’s little or no change, treat again with a sugary drink or snack and take another reading after 10 to 15 minutes.
  • You may need to eat your main meal if it’s the right time to have it. Or, have a snack that contains a slow-release carbohydrate, such as a slice of bread or toast, a couple of biscuits, or a glass of cows’ milk.
  • You do not usually need to get medical help once you’re feeling better if you only have a few hypos.

    But tell your diabetes team if you keep having hypos or if you stop having symptoms when your blood sugar level is low.

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    How Is Hypoglycemia Treated

    When your blood sugar levels are too low, eating carbohydrates is key. If you have diabetes, try to keep high carbohydrate snacks on hand.

    The American Diabetes Association recommends that your snack have at least 15 grams of carbohydrates. Some good snacks to keep on hand are:

    • hard candies
    • jelly beans or gumdrops
    • fresh or dried fruit

    You also can take glucose tablets to rapidly raise your blood sugar if its low. These are available without a prescription. Its important to check how many grams are in each tablet before taking them. Aim to get 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates.

    Wait 15 minutes after eating or taking a glucose tablet and test your blood sugar again. If your blood sugar is not going up, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrates or take another dose of glucose tablets. Repeat this until your blood sugar level starts to rise.

    Be sure not to overeat. This could lead to blood sugar levels that are too high.

    If your blood sugar remains unresponsive, contact your doctor or emergency services right away. When in doubt, treat.

    Symptoms of low blood sugar usually get worse if theyre left untreated. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have diabetes and experience low blood sugar levels often, or if you have symptoms, even if you dont have diabetes.

    What To Do If The Person Is Unconscious Drowsy Or Unable To Swallow

    If a person with diabetes is unconscious, drowsy or unable to swallow THIS IS AN EMERGENCY.

    Do not give them any food or drink by mouth, treat as follows:

  • Place them on their side making sure their airway is clear
  • Give an injection of Glucagon if available and you are trained to give it
  • Phone for an ambulance stating the person is unconscious AND that the person has diabetes
  • Wait with them until the ambulance arrives
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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:

    • pale
    • 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.

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    Does Everyone Have Symptoms From Hypoglycemia

    Hypoglycemia: Battling low blood sugar

    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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    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.

    Preventing Low Blood Sugar Levels

    Here are some other tips to help you avoid low blood sugar levels:

    • Eat all your meals and snacks on time and try not to skip any.
    • Take the right amount of insulin.
    • If you exercise longer or harder than usual, have an extra snack.
    • Dont take a hot bath or shower right after an insulin shot.
    • Stick to your diabetes management plan.
    • Check your blood sugar levels regularly, so you can tell if your blood sugars are running too low and your treatment plan needs adjustment.
    • Carry something containing sugar with you at all times and take it right away if you have symptoms. Dont wait to see if the symptoms will go away they may get worse!

    Alcohol and drugs can cause major problems with your blood sugar levels, so avoiding them is another way to prevent diabetes problems. Drinking can be particularly dangerous even deadly for people with diabetes because it messes up the bodys ability to keep blood glucose in a normal range. This can cause a very rapid drop in blood glucose in people with diabetes. Drug or alcohol use is also dangerous because it may affect someones ability to sense low blood sugar levels.

    Learning how to recognize the signs of low blood sugar levels and get them back to normal is an important part of caring for diabetes. Keeping track of your blood sugar levels and recording lows when they occur will help you and your diabetes health care team keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range.

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    When You Have Low Blood Sugar

    First, eat or drink 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as:

    • Three to four glucose tablets
    • One tube of glucose gel
    • Four to six pieces of hard candy
    • 1/2 cup fruit juice
    • 1 cup skim milk
    • 1/2 cup soft drink
    • 1 tablespoon honey

    Fifteen minutes after you’ve eaten a food with sugar in it, check your blood sugar again. If your blood sugar is still less than 70 mg/dL, eat another serving of one of the foods listed above. Repeat these steps until your sugar becomes normal.

    Questions Caregivers Should Ask

    WHAT LOW BLOOD SUGARS FEEL LIKE?

    As a family member, friend, or caregiver, you want to do your best to keep your loved one, friend, or patient safe from severe hypoglycemia. But knowing whats best can be overwhelming. Here are some questions to help you get started.

    • What are my loved ones/friends/patients chances for severe hypoglycemia?
    • How often should my loved one/friend/patient check their blood glucose?
    • What should I do if there is no change after giving the glucagon?
    • What would be the best food or drink to give my loved one/friend/patient once they wake up?
    • Should I talk with a diabetes educator?
    • How can I help treat their hypoglycemia?

    THE DEVELOPMENT OF THESE RESOURCES WERE MADE FROM THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF LILLY DIABETES AND XERIS PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.

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    High Blood Glucose: Hyperglycemia

    Hyperglycemia means that you have too much blood glucose. It happens when your blood glucose level is around 200 mg/dL or higher. Hyperglycemia can happen if you miss taking your diabetes medications, eat too much or do not get enough exercise. Sometimes, the medications you take for other problems cause high blood glucose.

    Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

    • Having blurry vision
    • Having to urinate often

    If you have these symptoms, check your blood glucose right away. If its too high, follow these steps:

    • Check your blood glucose every four hours. If your level does not go down after two checks or your symptoms get worse, call a member of your diabetes team.
    • Drink water or other sugar-free liquids, such as diet soda or Crystal Light.
    • You may need to take an extra dose of insulin. Your diabetes educator talks with you more about this.

    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

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    How Can I Prevent Low Blood Glucose

    Your best bet is to practice good diabetes management and learn to detect hypoglycemia so you can treat it earlybefore it gets worse.

    Monitoring blood glucose, with either a meter or a CGM, is the tried and true method for preventing hypoglycemia. Studies consistently show that the more a person checks blood glucose, the lower his or her risk of hypoglycemia. This is because you can see when blood glucose levels are dropping and can treat it before it gets too low.

    If you can, check often!

    • Check before and after meals.
    • Check before and after exercise .
    • Check before bed.
    • After intense exercise, also check in the middle of the night.
    • Check more if things around you change such as, a new insulin routine, a different work schedule, an increase in physical activity, or travel across time zones.

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