What To Do When Your Blood Sugar Levels Drop Too Low
People who use insulin and other diabetes medications are at risk for hypoglycemia. Keep this action plan handy so you’re prepared.
If you take insulin or diabetes medication, you may be at risk of developing , or low blood sugar. Without quick attention, hypoglycemia can lead to serious complications, so its important to know what to do if it happens to you or someone close to you.
In very severe cases, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures or loss of consciousness, says Marilyn Tan, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine, endocrinology, gerontology, and metabolism at Stanford Health Care, and chief of the Stanford Endocrine Clinic.
It’s possible to have hypoglycemia but have no symptoms, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases . On the other hand, symptoms can also come on rapidly. While symptoms vary from person to person, if you develop mild to moderate low blood sugar you may:
- Feel shaky or jittery
- Have a headache or be lightheaded
- Turn pale
- Be irritable or combative
- Have blurred vision or see double
Some people feel tingling or numbness in their extremities too, says Rodolfo Galindo, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, metabolism, and lipids at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and chair of the inpatient diabetes taskforce.
Part 2 Of 3:preventing Low Blood Sugar
Certain Drugs In Your Medicine Cabinet
Common drugs, including corticosteroids that are used to control , , and rheumatological condition can raise blood sugar levels, as can statins to improve cholesterol levels, and diuretics to lower blood pressure. Even can cause hyperglycemia. Many of these drugs are important for other conditions, so if you use them, you might need to track and control your blood sugar levels more closely.
Foods To Boost Low Blood Sugar
People with diabetes try hard to keep their blood sugar from getting too high, but sometimes they succeed too well. Certain diabetes medications — including insulin injections and pills such as chlorpropamide — can sometimes make blood sugar too low, a condition called hypoglycemia. People with diabetes can also get low blood sugar simply by skimping at mealtime, drinking too much alcohol, or overexercising.
Low blood sugar is usually mild and easy to fix, but if you wait too long, you can lose consciousness. If your blood sugar level drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter or if you notice signs of hypoglycemia — shakiness, dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, anxiety, weakness, heart palpitations, blurry vision, hunger, or sweating — you can bring your level up again with a quick, sugary snack. If you are away from home and experience symptoms, and you can’t test your blood sugar first, it’s better to have a small snack before you become even more ill.
Here are some proven sugar-boosting options:
- One-half cup of fruit juice
- One-half cup of non-diet soda
- 1 cup of milk
- A small handful of hard candy
- 1 tablespoon of either sugar or honey
- 3 or 4 glucose tablets
About 15 minutes after your snack, check your blood sugar again. If you’re still below 70, try another dose of sugar. Check again 15 minutes later, and keep the pattern up until your blood sugar is in a normal range.
Stick With Starchy Vegetables
Cooked carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes can boost your blood sugar. Raw carrots have a lower GI. Nonstarchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, eggplant, zucchini and cucumbers, are lower in carbs and have very little effect on your blood sugar levels. Fat slows digestion and makes your blood sugar levels rise less quickly, so potatoes cooked with fat, such as French fries and potato chips, have a lower GI than plain boiled, mashed and baked potatoes.
Treating Mild To Moderate Hypoglycemia
If you start feeling any of the symptoms listed above, check your blood sugar as soon as possible, then follow the chart below to treat low blood sugar. If you have any concerns, or cant test immediately, its best to treat first and check when possible.
If your blood sugar is
What to do next
51 to 70 mg/dL
10 to 15 grams of fast-acting carbs, such as 4 ounces of fruit juice, 6 to 8 hard candies, or 3 to 4 glucose tablets.
Test your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. Repeat the treatment if necessary.
Under 50 mg/dL
Eat 20 to 30 grams of fast-acting carbs, such as 8 ounces of fruit juice, 12 to 16 hard candies, or 6 to 8 glucose tablets.
Test your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. Repeat the treatment if necessary.
How To Raise Blood Sugar Levels Quickly And Safely
- To raise blood sugar levels quickly, eat or drink something containing about 15 grams of simple carbs for a quick boost to restore blood glucose.
- Frequent low blood sugar episodes can cause a potentially dangerous condition called hypoglycemia unawareness, where there are no warning signs until more severe symptoms, like shakiness and confusion, set in.
- This article was by Scott Kaiser, MD, geriatrician and Director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
is a condition where blood sugar levels drop too low and need to be restored fast. If the condition isn’t treated quickly, you risk symptoms and complications like shakiness, confusion, seizures, or even death.
Here’s what you need to know about the causes and symptoms of hypoglycemia and the safest ways to raise blood sugar quickly.
How To Treat A Low Blood Sugar
Weve all been in the position of having a bad low blood sugar, where all you want to do is eat everything in sight. Theres no reasoning with yourself. Its like a demon has hijacked your self-control!
It makes perfect senseyour body just wants to get your blood sugar back up to a safe level, and its doing its best to ensure that the low is corrected.
But eating your weight in carbs is just going to result in high blood sugar, and then you are dealing with the opposite problem. Whats a person with diabetes to do?
First of all, fix the low. Get your blood glucose level above 70 mg/dl .
Its best to use a dextrose-based treatment, like glucose tablets or gel, to get the BG up to a safe level. Using something high glycemic index is important when you are very low and need to quickly raise the blood glucose, especially if you have a lot of on board.
Be careful to treat with the right amount of carb, as opposed to over-treating.
- If you weigh less than 60 lbs, a gram of carb will raise your BG about 6 points.
- If you weigh 100-160 lbs, a gram of carb should raise your BG about 4 points.
- If you weigh 160-220 lbs, a gram of carb might raise you 3 points.
And give the carbohydrates 15-20 minutes to raise the BG. Do a follow-up fingerstick because there is a lag time with CGM sensors, and the BG you get with a fingerstick will be a more accurate reflection of your response to your treatment. If you are still low, repeat the treatment.
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 , 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 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
What If I Have Severe Low Blood Glucose And Cant Treat Myself
a 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.
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 .
How To Treat Someone Who’s Having A Seizure Or Fit
Follow these steps if someone has a seizure or fit caused by a low blood sugar level:
Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to have a seizure or fit.
Part 1 Of 3:managing High Blood Sugar
Best Foods For Low Blood Sugar
March 26, 2019
For patients with diabetes, monitoring blood sugar levels is a part of daily life.
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can occur for many people with diabetes who are on certain medications, including insulin. It can occur for a variety of reasons including skipping a meal, exercising strenuously, taking too much insulin or consuming alcohol, especially on an empty stomach.
Low blood sugar can be as minor as a slight inconvenience or as serious as a life-threatening emergency. Thats why it is important to boost blood sugar before it becomes problematic.
Angela Norton, a diabetes educator at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, has diabetes herself, so she knows firsthand the tips and tricks of keeping blood sugar on track. Although blood glucose is considered normal if above 70 mg/dL, Norton says patients with diabetes should not wait until they reach below that threshold to take action.
Treat when you feel the symptoms, even if your blood sugar is not below 70, because as long as it is less than 100, it may be dropping fast, she says.
When it comes to treatment, Norton shares these five foods to help boost low blood sugar.
1. CandyWhen hypoglycemia occurs, patients should follow the 15-15 rule. Consume 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise blood glucose and check your levels again after 15 minutes. When the numbers return to normal, eat a snack to stay on track.
Gummy candies contain , which have a large impact on blood sugar levels.
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 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 release insulin into the blood, 2 in 100 may develop severely low blood glucose each year.3
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:
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.
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.
Treatment Plan For Lows
*** Remember that IOB calculations CANNOT be accurate unless your Active Insulin Time or Duration of Insulin Action time is set to at least 4.5 hours or LONGER!
More grams of carbs than these will likely be needed:
- If you forget and take 2 boluses/injections for a meal, or
- If you took a meal bolus but never ate the meal .
Quick treatment reduces stress hormone release and the chances of your glucose rising sharply afterward. Plus youll quickly feel better and your brain, muscles, and cells will thank you for resupplying the fuel that shortens their misery.
How To Recognize Hypoglycemia
The first signs of hypoglycemia include feeling sweaty, shaky, and hungry. However, not everyone has these symptoms or notices them in time to prevent low blood sugar from getting worse. Its also important to know that your symptoms of hypoglycemia will change the longer you have T1D.
As hypoglycemia gets worse, symptoms can include:
- Feeling weak
- Having difficulty walking or seeing clearly
- Acting strange or getting disoriented
- Having seizures
Severe hypoglycemia may make you faint or pass out. This is dangerous if you are driving, climbing stairs, or doing other activities where you need to stay aware of things around you.
Hypoglycemia can happen at night. If it does, you are likely to wake up, but its important not to rely on your body to wake you up. A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, can alert you and those around you with an alarm to let you know if your blood sugar starts getting low while you are sleeping.
Its a good idea to check your blood sugar often when lows are likely, such as in hot weather or when you travel. Your CGM can also let you know when your blood sugar is getting lower.
Watch out for hypoglycemia unawareness.
You might not have early warning signs of low blood sugar. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness, and it raises the risk of having severe lows. It is more likely if:
- You have had diabetes longer than 5 or 10 years
- You have frequent episodes of hypoglycemia
- You take certain medicines, such as beta blockers for high blood pressure
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.