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.
Are There Any Newer Technologies To Prevent Hypoglycemia
We are lucky that in this day and age, we can predict hypoglycemia and prevent it through technology like continuous glucose monitors, explains Dr. Shah. Additionally, he notes that there are newer insulins available to help decrease episodes of hypoglycemia.
One of our roles as your doctor is to educate every patient about the self-management of diabetes and to create a personalized care plan, explains Dr. Shah. By self-managing your condition you will really feel empowered enough to take control of your health.
Dr. Shah is located at the Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group Diabetes Center, part of Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group. Call to schedule an appointment at the office in Old Bridge.
Our care network can help you better manage your health. Visit HMHMedicalGroup.org to find a practice near you.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
Low Blood Sugar Chart And Action Plan
Low blood sugar is also called hypoglycemia. The numbers below represent values in the hypoglycemic range and require action to bring blood sugar levels up into a normal range.
|Alert Level and Treatment Plan|
|50 mg/dL or under||Red Flag: Blood sugar is critically low and requires immediate treatment.
If a person is unable to speak and/or is not alert, treat with glucagon via injection or nasal spray. Call emergency medical response if necessary. Do not place food or drink into the mouth.
If a person is alert and able to speak clearly, treat with 15 grams of rapid-acting carbohydrate such as glucose gel, 4 oz regular soda, or fruit juice. Re-test blood sugar in 15 minutes and repeat as needed to bring blood sugar within range.
|51-70 mg/dL||Red Flag: Blood sugar is below normal levels and requires immediate treatment.
Treat with 15 grams of rapid-acting carbohydrate and re-test in 15 minutes. Repeat treatment as needed to bring blood sugar within range.
|71-90 mg/dL||Yellow Flag: Blood sugar levels should be watched and treated as needed.
If youre having symptoms of low blood sugar, treat with 15 grams of rapid-acting carbohydrate and re-test in 15 minutes.
Repeat treatment or follow with a meal. If it is meal time, move forward with eating the meal. People often fall into this range when they are late for a meal or have been especially active.
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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.
Low Blood Glucose During Sleep
Your blood glucose level can drop while you sleep and stay low for several hours, causing serious problems.7 Symptoms of low blood glucose while you sleep can include
- crying out or having nightmares
- sweating enough to make your pajamas or sheets damp
- feeling tired, irritable, or confused after waking up
Although you may not wake up or notice any symptoms, low blood glucose can interfere with your sleep, which may affect your quality of life, mood, and ability to work. Having low blood glucose during sleep can also make you less likely to notice and respond to symptoms of low blood glucose during the day.
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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.
Who Is At Risk Of Hypoglycaemia
People with diabetes who inject insulin or who take certain diabetes tablets are at risk of low blood glucose.
There are other medical conditions that may cause a person to produce too much insulin and people can experience symptoms of low blood glucose levels even when they do not take insulin or certain diabetes medications. If so it is important to have this investigated by your doctor.
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A Low Blood Sugar Level Without Diabetes
A low blood sugar level is uncommon in people who do not have diabetes.
Possible causes include:
- a gastric bypass
- other medical conditions, such as problems with your hormone levels, pancreas, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands or heart
- some medicines, including quinine
See a GP if you think you keep getting symptoms of a low blood sugar level. They can arrange some simple tests to check if your blood sugar level is low and try to find out what’s causing it.
What Are The Complications Of Low Blood Glucose
Mild-to-moderate low blood glucose can be easily treated. But severely low blood glucose can cause serious complications, including passing out, coma, or death.
Repeated episodes of low blood glucose can lead to
- high blood glucose levels, if worry or fear of low blood glucose keeps you from taking the medicines you need to manage your diabetes8
- hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which you dont notice any symptoms of low blood glucose until your blood glucose level has dropped very low
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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
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 right 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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Examples Of Appropriate Snacks May Be:
- 6 saltine crackers
- 1 slice toast and 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup milk
The food eaten for a reaction need not be subtracted from a meal plan.
Obtain a blood sugar when symptoms occur if you are able. If symptoms are severe, treat the reaction first and then obtain a blood sugar. Do not drive nor operate equipment if you feel your blood sugar is low.
If your blood sugar drops low enough for you to become unconscious, you must be taken to the hospital and/or treated with glucagon.
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the blood sugar to rise. It can only be given by injection. It is used to treat a low blood sugar if a person becomes semi-conscious or unconscious due to a severe low blood sugar. Please ask your nurse for instruction on glucagon. Your doctor will need to write a prescription for glucagon so you can have it available at home.
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.
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Exercise Food And Alcohol
For people with type 1 diabetes, maintaining the correct blood glucose level involves balancing how much insulin you inject, the amount of food you eat, and how much energy you burn during exercise.
Hypoglycaemia may occur if you’ve taken your dose of insulin as usual, but your carbohydrate intake is lower than normal or has been used up more quickly. This may happen if you delay or miss a meal or snack, don’t eat enough carbohydrate, or exercise more than usual.
People with diabetes who’ve drunk too much alcohol, or drank alcohol on an empty stomach, can also get hypoglycaemia.
However, it’s not always possible to identify why a particular episode of hypoglycaemia has occurred, and sometimes it happens for no obvious reason.
What Are The Most Effective Foods To Eat To Aid Lower Blood Sugar
It is not just the overall amount of carbohydrates that impact blood sugar levels, however the kind of carb as well as whether it belongs to a meal or on its own. Decreasing blood sugar degrees calls for that less sugar be released right into the body when absorbed. Lowering blood sugar level additionally suggests that there can be less demand for insulin to get rid of excess sugar. Reducing blood glucose degrees can also make a diabetics body extra sensitive to insulin. Decreasing blood sugar level degrees by eating right is key in preventing diabetes, but it will only function when tried alongside other approaches.
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How Is Hypoglycemia Treated
When your blood sugar levels are too low, eating something made of 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 include:
- glucose tablets
- honey or table sugar
- jelly beans or gum drops
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.
If your regularly scheduled meal is not for a while, eat a small snack after the low blood sugar episode.
Be sure not to overeat! This could lead to blood sugar levels that are too high.
What Drinks And Foods Raise Blood Sugar Fast
- 4 teaspoons of sugar
- 1/2 can of regular soda or juice
Many people like the idea of treating low blood sugar with dietary treats such as cake, cookies, and brownies. However, sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates or sugar combined with fat and protein are much too slowly absorbed to be useful in acute treatment.
Once the acute episode has been treated, a healthy, long-acting carbohydrate to maintain blood sugars in the appropriate range should be consumed. Half a sandwich is a reasonable option.
If the hypoglycemic episode has progressed to the point at which the patient cannot or will not take anything by mouth, more drastic measures will be needed. In many cases, a family member or roommate can be trained in the use of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that causes a rapid release of glucose stores from the liver. It is an injection given intramuscularly to an individual who cannot take glucose by mouth. A response is usually seen in minutes and lasts for about 90 minutes. Again, a long-acting source of glucose should thereafter be consumed to maintain blood sugar levels in the safe range. If glucagon is not available and the patient is not able to take anything by mouth, emergency services should be called immediately. An intravenous route of glucose administration should be established as soon as possible.
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Check Your Blood Sugar Often
Talk with your provider about when you should check your blood sugar every day. People who have low blood sugar need to check their blood sugar more often.
The most common causes of low blood sugar are:
- Taking your insulin or diabetes medicine at the wrong time
- Taking too much insulin or diabetes medicine
- Taking insulin to correct high blood sugar without eating any food
- Not eating enough during meals or snacks after you have taken insulin or diabetes medicine
- Skipping meals
- Waiting too long after taking your medicine to eat your meals
- Exercising a lot or at a time that is unusual for you
- Not checking your blood sugar or not adjusting your insulin dose before exercising
- Drinking alcohol
What Happens To An Older Cat With Diabetes
Diabetes in Older Cats. Without insulin, the body cant utilize glucose. In diabetic cats, excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys, producing frequent urination. There is a need to compensate for the increased urination by drinking unusual amounts of water. Pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, medications such as megestrol acetate ,
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What Are The Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can start quickly, with people experiencing them in different ways. The signs of hypoglycemia are unpleasant. But they provide good warnings that you should take action before blood sugar drops more. The signs include:
- Shaking or trembling.
- Tingling or numbness in the face or mouth.
During a severe hypoglycemic event, a person may:
- Be unable to eat or drink.
- Have a seizure or convulsions .
- Lose consciousness.
- Slip into a coma or die .
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:
- 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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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 your 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.