Diabetic Dilemma: Low Blood Sugar

We’re kicking off National Diabetes Month with this primer on the most common concern when caring for people living with diabetes: low blood sugar, aka hypoglycemia.
Mother helping son

According to the CDC, 12.6% of adults (20 or older) in the United States have diabetes. That’s over 28.4 million people. Pair that sheer number with the most common complication for people living with diabetes, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and you can understand why there’s growing cause for watchfulness and preparedness in healthcare and educational operations. 

It doesn’t take much for a diabetic’s blood sugar to dip too low. Small things, like taking too much medication (including insulin), skipping meals, eating less than normal or exercising more than usual can lead to hypoglycemia. If not treated immediately, low blood sugar levels may lead to seizures or unconsciousness, and in extreme cases, coma. 

Whether you’re a hospital or long-term care community, elementary school or university, the power to prevent a medical emergency lies within your pantry. Or at least, it should. Keep a few diabetic-friendly snacks on hand, namely easily digestible carbohydrates. Also keep a watchful eye on your patients and residents or students who are dealing with diabetes. Immediately treat them if they start showing any of the most common signs or symptoms of low blood sugar.

Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar

These can occur suddenly, so constant monitoring is key. Watch for mild to moderate:

  • Shakiness
  • Sweating, chills or clamminess
  • Confusion
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Hunger and nausea


Immediately treating hypoglycemia

Consume 15-20 grams of glucose or simple carbohydrates. Examples include:

  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • ½ cup juice or regular soda (not diet)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, honey or corn syrup
  • 1 cup nonfat or 1% milk
  • Hard candies, jelly beans or gumdrops (see package for serving size)
  • Glucose tablets (follow package instructions)
  • Gel tube (follow package instructions)

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