Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar: How Is Hypoglycemia Treated?

Nora Saul, M.S, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.

Nora Saul is Manager of Nutritional Education at the Joslin Diabetes Center

By Nora Saul, M.S, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.

In the first two blogs on low blood sugar, I talked about the symptoms of hypoglycemia and the cause.

Now let’s talk about the steps you should take to treat low blood glucose.

As I mentioned in my blog on hypogylcemia symptoms, some of the symptoms of low blood glucose can have other causes.

So it’s important that, if at all possible, you confirm that your  symptoms are actually caused by hypoglycemia.  That means, checking your blood glucose with your meter, before initiating any treatment.

If your blood sugar is less than 70mg/dl, you should eat or drink a quickly absorbed carbohydrate source

(See below for a list of fast acting carbohydrates that I recommend to my patients in the Joslin Clinic).

Then, wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar again to make sure it has moved into a safe range.

Once your blood sugar is back in your normal range, you need to make sure that it will stay there. So to maintain the blood glucose above 70mg.dl you should eat a snack if you won’t be eating a meal within an hour of the episode of hypoglycemia.

Items to use to treat hypoglycemia or low blood sugar

  • 3 or 4 glucose tablets
  • 1 serving of glucose gel—the amount equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate
  • 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of any fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of a regular—not diet—soft drink
  • 1 cup, or 8 ounces, of milk
  • 5 or 6 pieces of hard candy
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey

If you take a careful look at this list you will notice that one of my favorite foods, and maybe yours, chocolate, is missing.

Chocolate, while on of life’s list of things to eat before you are 50, is not one of the treatments for hypoglycemia.  Nor is peanut butter for that matter.

In fact, if the food is fatty or contains fiber it isn’t a good treatment for low blood glucose because it won’t bring the blood glucose up quickly enough.

Hypoglycemia Emergencies & Injectable Glucogon

For some people the blood glucose falls too low before the person has an opportunity to treat it—and if the blood glucose falls low enough, the individual may pass out.

If this is the case, friends and family can help by injecting glucagon.  Glucagon is given by syringe into fatty tissue such as the buttocks and stimulates the liver to release glucose. I always tell my patients with type 1 diabetes  to make sure that someone close to them leans how to inject glucagon.

Next week:  How to Prevent Hypoglycemia

First it is important to confirm that the symptoms are caused by hypoglycemia. If possible, a blood glucose check should be performed before initiating treatment.

If the blood sugar is <70mg/dl than a quickly absorbed carbohydrate source, as listed below should be consumed. To confirm that the blood sugar is in a safe range, the blood sugar is re-checked in 15 minutes.

To maintain the blood glucose above 70mg.dl a snack should be eaten if a meal is not consumed within an hour of the episode of hypoglycemia.

Items to use to treat hypoglycemia or low blood sugar:

* 3 or 4 glucose tablets

* 1 serving of glucose gel—the amount equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate

* 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of any fruit juice

* 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of a regular—not diet—soft drink

* 1 cup, or 8 ounces, of milk

* 5 or 6 pieces of hard candy

* 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey

If you take a careful look at the list above you will notice, that one of my favorite foods, and maybe yours, chocolate, is missing.

Chocolate, while on of life’s list of things to eat before you are 50, is not one of the treatments for hypoglycemia. Nor is peanut butter for that matter. In fact, if the food is fatty or contains fiber it isn’t a good treatment for low blood glucose because it won’t bring the blood glucose up quickly enough.

For some people the blood glucose falls too low before the person has an opportunity to treat it—and if the blood glucose falls low enough, the individual may pass out. If this is the case, friends and family can help by injecting glucagon. Glucagon is given by syringe into fatty tissue such as the buttocks and stimulates the liver to release glucose. If you close to someone with type 1 diabetes talk with him about learning how to inject glucagon.

· Click here to learn about the Joslin Clinic’s special class:  Low and High Blood Glucose Awareness Training.

· Click here for more information on Patient Education at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

· Click here to view our videos on diabetes.

· Click here to read our other blogs on hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

· Click here to learn more about Joslin Diabetes Center.

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2 Responses to Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar: How Is Hypoglycemia Treated?

  1. I recommend reading ‘Diabetes and You: A Comprehensive, Holistic Approach’. It has just about everything diabetes-related in it. Hope this helps.

  2. Pingback: eye exercises to improve vision

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