How To Treat Low Blood Sugar
If you think you have low blood sugar, be sure to check it.
Keeping your blood sugar levels on target as much as possible can help prevent or delay long-term, serious health problems. While this is important, closely managing your blood sugar levels also increases your chance for low blood sugar . Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low. If you think you have low blood sugar, check it. If you arent able to check it, go ahead and treat it.
Untreated low blood sugar can be dangerous, so its important to know what to do about it and to treat it immediately.
Early Signs Blood Sugar Is Low
In general, theres a good deal of variation when it comes to the signs of low blood sugar. Milder and more common symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- Shakiness or jitteriness
|Target Blood Sugar Levels for People With Diabetes|
|Before a meal||80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter|
|Two hours after a meal||180 mg/dL or lower|
|Severe low blood sugar||54 mg/dL or lower|
What To Give Diabetic When Sugar Is Low
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.
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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
Checking For Low Blood Sugar Levels
The warning signs of hypoglycemia are the bodys 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:
- have an increased heart rate
If the hypoglycemia isnt treated, more serious symptoms may happen, such as drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
The only way to know for sure if youre 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 cant quickly check your blood sugar level, its 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 its also released when blood sugar levels fall quickly when theyre too high. If youre 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 youre having a false reaction.
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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
Low Blood Sugar For Children Age 6 And Older
A blood sugar less than 70 is too low.
- Take 10 to 15 grams of quick-acting carbohydrate right away, such as:
- Drink 3 to 4 ounces of juice
- Drink 3 to 4 ounces of soda pop that has sugar
- Chew 3 to 4 glucose tabs
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Treatment For Severe Hypoglycaemia
In cases of severe hypoglycaemia the person cannot treat themselves, and needs the help of someone else. Call triple zero for an ambulance immediately.
If the person cant swallow or follow instructions do not give them any treatment by mouth.
If you are trained in how to prepare and inject glucagon and feel comfortable injecting it, then this can be administered.
Ambulance paramedics have the resources to manage severe hypoglycaemia.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
Different people may feel low blood sugar levels differently. People with low blood sugar may:
- feel hungry or have “hunger pains” in their stomach
- feel shaky or like they’re trembling
- have a rapid heart rate
- feel sweaty or have cold, clammy skin
- have pale, gray skin color
- have a headache
- have seizures or convulsions
- lose consciousness
If you have diabetes, try to remember how your body reacts when your blood sugar levels are low. It may help you figure out when you’re having a low blood sugar level more quickly the next time.
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What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis
If you think you may have low blood sugar, check it even if you dont have symptoms.
When too many ketones are produced too fast, they can build up in your body and cause diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. DKA is very serious and can cause a coma or even death. Common symptoms of DKA include:
- Fast, deep breathing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
If you think you may have DKA, test your urine for ketones. Follow the test kit directions, checking the color of the test strip against the color chart in the kit to see your ketone level. If your ketones are high, . DKA requires treatment in a hospital.
DKA happens most in people with type 1 diabetes and is sometimes the first sign of type 1 in people who havent yet been diagnosed. People with type 2 diabetes can also develop DKA, but its less common.
How Do Carbs Affect Blood Sugar
Carbs in food make your blood sugar levels go higher after you eat them than when you eat proteins or fats. You can still eat carbs if you have diabetes. The amount you can have and stay in your target blood sugar range depends on your age, weight, activity level, and other factors. Counting carbs in foods and drinks is an important tool for managing blood sugar levels. Make sure to talk to your health care team about the best carb goals for you.
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What Is Hypoglycaemia
Hypoglycaemia or low blood glucose occurs when your blood glucose level is less than 4 mmol/L, or where symptoms of hypoglycaemia are experienced at a level close to this.
Normally, when blood glucose lowers, your body lowers the amount of insulin it is putting out. This stabilises blood glucose by stopping glucose moving into your bodys cells and releasing stored glucose from your liver. This may not happen if you have diabetes.
When you have diabetes and are taking insulin , you can still get the same low blood glucose level if you run out of glucose coming in from your food. But when your body senses that your blood glucose is becoming lower and it tries to switch off its insulin, it cant. This is because you have injected your insulin .
This means the insulin continues to move glucose into your bodys cells and your liver doesnt start releasing stored glucose. So, your blood glucose level keeps going down and can soon be dangerously low.
Because your brain needs glucose all the time to function, if you cut off the supply of glucose and do not take action, you will eventually become unconscious.The following video from Diabetes UK helps explain the common symptoms, causes and treatment.
What Else Should I Do
- Always carry fast acting carbohydrates with you
- Wear identification that says you have diabetes
- Make a note of any hypos you have and discuss it with your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator
- Make sure your family, friends, co-workers, school staff and carers know how to recognise and treat hypoglycaemia
- Look for the cause of your hypo so you can try to prevent it from occurring again
- Contact your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator if you are having hypos often
- If youre taking medication called Acarbose carry pure glucose with you such as glucose tablets, glucose gel or Lucozade
- Eat carbohydrates if you are drinking alcohol
- Test your blood glucose level and ensure it is above 5mmol/L before driving a motor vehicle.
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What Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose, also called low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below what is healthy for you. For many people with diabetes, this means a blood glucose reading lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter .1 Your number might be different, so check with your doctor or health care team to find out what blood glucose level is low for you.
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What If The 15
If you dont feel better after three tries, or if your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider or 911. Healthcare providers can use a medication called glucagon. They inject it with a needle or squirt it up your nose. Glucagon is also available for home use. Your healthcare provider can prescribe it and teach a family member or friend how to use it in the event of severe hypoglycemia.
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.
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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:
- 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.
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 cant test blood sugar immediately, dont delay in treating your symptoms you can always check your blood sugar after youve 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 its 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.
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When To See A Doctor
According to the University of Michigan, blood sugar levels of 300 mg/dL or more can be dangerous. They recommend calling a doctor if you have two readings in a row of 300 or more.
See your doctor if you have consistently high blood sugar levels. Symptoms of this include:
- increased thirst
- high levels of sugar in urine
Ask your doctor how often to check your blood sugar and about your ideal blood sugar levels.
If you dont currently see a doctor who specializes in diabetes, known as an endocrinologist, you can find one by searching the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists website.
You can find a certified diabetes educator by visiting the American Diabetes Associations website and searching by zip code.
Talk to your doctor if you have consistently high blood sugar readings or symptoms of chronic hyperglycemia.
Checking your blood sugar and then treating hyperglycemia early will help prevent any complications.
Health problems can arise when someone has high blood sugar regularly and without treatment.
Examples of complications include:
- nerve damage, called diabetic neuropathy, that may affect sensations in the feet and hands
- diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the blood vessels in the eyes that affects vision
- increased risks for kidney problems
- increased risks for heart problems
Taking steps to keep your blood sugar at target levels can help to minimize the likelihood that these complications will occur.