When To Call The Doctor
If signs of low blood sugar do not improve after you have eaten a snack that contains sugar, have someone drive you to the emergency room or call 911 or the local emergency number. Do not drive when your blood sugar is low.
Get medical help right away for a person with low blood sugar if the person is not alert or cannot be woken up as this is a medical emergency.
When To Call 911
Your friend, relative, or coworker should call 911 for help if:
- You pass out and no glucagon is available
- You need a second dose of glucagon
- You had glucagon, but are still confused
- Your blood sugar stays too low 20 minutes after treatment or doesnt respond to your usual treatments
The emergency medical technicians can give you IV sugar . This raises your blood sugar level right away. You might need to stay in the hospital for a few hours.
NEVER be afraid to call 911 or ask someone to call 911 for you if you are concerned .
Other things to know about hypoglycemia:
It takes time for blood sugar to rise after eating, and its important to give your first treatment time to work. Use the table above to guide your treatment and timing instead of eating until you feel better, which will almost always lead to eating too much.
Hypoglycemia can be common with certain types of exercise. Managing blood sugar during and after physical activity is important and is something that a lot of people with T1D have questions about. JDRF has a number of resources available for people with T1D and their families, many of which can be found here.
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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How To Help Others Help You
Knowing the signs of low blood sugar, having an action plan, and being prepared with your glucose meter and glucose tablets are vital, but sometimes you might need to rely on other people to help when youre blood sugar drops too low. Take these additional steps so youre prepared and they are, too:
Teach your loved ones. If youre unable to help yourself, friends, family, or colleagues may need to treat you with an injection of glucagon, a hormone that tells your liver to release stored glucose, the American Diabetes Association says. For this reason, its a good idea to teach those close to you what to do. If they dont know how to give you the injection or if glucagon isnt available, they must call 911 and get you the help you need, Evans says. Low blood sugar thats sustained for a prolonged time can lead to irreversible brain damage, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Wear an ID bracelet. Evan suggests that everyone with diabetes should get a tattoo or wear a medical ID bracelet. The bracelet should say diabetes and whether youre on insulin or take other medications, the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston recommends.
Talk to your doctor about your low blood sugar risk. If you have frequent bouts of hypoglycemia, be sure to talk with your doctor. The solution may be as simple as changing how much or the kind of diabetes medicine you take. However, never make any changes to your medication regimen without your doctors approval.
Whats The Link Between Diabetes And Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is most common, by far, in people with diabetes. Treatment for the diseaseoften involves taking medication to increase insulin. Hypoglycemia can develop if things like food, exercise and diabetes medications are out of balance.
Common pitfalls for people with diabetes include:
- Being more active than usual.
- Drinking alcohol without eating.
- Eating late or skipping meals.
- Not balancing meals by including fat, protein and fiber.
- Not eating enough carbohydrates.
- Not timing insulin and carb intake correctly .
Also, if someone with diabetes uses the wrong insulin, takes too much or injects it incorrectly, that can cause hypoglycemia.
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Recognizing Hypoglycemia: Symptoms To Look For
Early symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Stubborn behavior
- Extreme sleepiness
If your childs blood sugar levels stay low and continue to drop, symptoms will get worse. This can lead to seizures or unconsciousness if not treated immediately.
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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.
Whats Considered Low Blood Sugar
Your blood sugar tends to fluctuate throughout the day. Itll be lower when you first wake up, especially if you havent eaten for the past 8 to 10 hours.
Your blood sugar will go up once you eat. Depending on when you last ate, heres whats considered to be a normal blood sugar range:
|Fasting||2 hours after a meal|
|7099 mg/dL||Less than 140 mg/dL|
Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, is when your blood sugar levels fall below 70 mg/dL.
The point at which low blood sugar symptoms become noticeable is different from one person to the next.
Some people may feel jittery, irritable, or lightheaded when their blood sugar level falls to 70 mg/dL. Other people may not feel any symptoms until well below that mark.
A quick, simple blood test can measure your blood sugar level. If you have diabetes or another medical condition that sometimes causes episodes of low blood sugar, its important to regularly check your blood sugar with a home test.
If a test shows that your blood sugar is below normal, you can take steps to adjust it quickly.
Symptoms of low blood sugar vary from person to person and can even be different from one episode to the next. You may experience specific symptoms the first time your blood sugar dips, and different symptoms the next time.
The most common mild to moderate symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- jitters or shaking
More severe symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- inability to eat or drink
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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:
What If I Don’t Get Any Signs That I Have Hypoglycaemia
Sometimes people are unable to recognise symptoms of hypoglycaemia and find it difficult to tell if their blood glucose might be low. This may be because a person has:
- had diabetes for a long time
- had too many recent episodes of hypoglycaemia
- not treated their hypoglycaemia correctly
- ignored early warning signs of hypoglycaemia.
The only way to know if blood glucose has gone too low is to check blood glucose levels more often. Sometimes people use a continuous glucose monitor to help them know where their glucose is trending.
It is possible to regain the ability to recognise symptoms of hypoglycaemia. Talk with your diabetes specialist or diabetes educator for advice and support.
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What Causes Reactive Hypoglycemia
Reactive hypoglycemia comes from having too much insulin in your blood. It usually happens within a few hours after you eat. Other possible causes include:
- Having prediabetes or being more likely to have diabetes
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The Importance Of Treating Low Blood Sugar Immediately
Always treat hypoglycemia right away. Even if an emergency doesnt occur, a continued drop in blood sugar levels can affect your thinking for example, you might not even realize you have to eat or drink something to bring up your blood sugar. That means youll have to rely on someone else tohelp you. If no ones around, things can get much more serious. For instance, you might decide to drive, but because your muscles are affected by low blood sugar, you could be at higher risk to get into an accident.
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Teach people close to you what to be aware of and what to do in case you cant treat yourself. You might also want to teach them how to test yourblood sugar.
Although its useful to know what to do when your blood sugar drops, its easier to prevent low blood sugar levels rather than treat it after its happened. Monitor your blood sugar levelsregularly with a glucometeror home testing kit. If you continue to have repeated episodes of hypoglycemia, talk to your healthcare professionals to discuss changes to your diabetes treatmentplan.
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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.