What to do if your blood sugar drops suddenly

Low blood sugar, also known as an insulin reaction or insulin shock, can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening sometimes.

Myupchar November 18, 2019 12:23:21 IST
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What to do if your blood sugar drops suddenly
  • Once blood sugar goes below the normal range (70 mg/dl), it is called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar in diabetics

  • The American Diabetes Association recommends "the 15-15 rule" to treat hypoglycemia

  • The rule says to have 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar and check it after 15 minutes

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be a life-changing moment. While many who have had diabetes for a long time would know what low blood sugar (also called blood glucose) could result in, newly diagnosed ones are still figuring it out.

As we know, diabetes is a lifestyle disorder that doesn’t have a cure yet. It can only be managed. With such a disease, knowing every little detail becomes extremely important.

What to do if your blood sugar drops suddenly

Representational image.
Image by Martin Büdenbender from Pixabay

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels keep happening throughout the day - even in healthy people. These changes aren’t noticeable (or anything to worry about) when they happen within a certain range. Once blood sugar goes below the normal range (70 mg/dl), it is called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar in diabetics. It's called non-diabetic hypoglycemia when it happens to non-diabetics and has two types - fasting (when they haven't eaten anything for eight hours or more) and reactive (can be caused by hyperinsulinism or too much insulin in the body, prediabetes, high-sugar foods, etc).

Dr Ayush Pandey, a doctor associated with myUpchar.com, said that low blood sugar, also known as an insulin reaction or insulin shock, can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening sometimes.

Symptoms of low blood sugar 

The symptoms vary from person to person, said Dr Pandey. The most commonly reported symptoms of low blood sugar among diabetics are:

  • Feeling anxious or nervous
  • Tingling sensation or shaking of hands or legs
  • Sweating or chills
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sudden hunger
  • Blurring of vision
  • Weakness or loss of energy
  • Seizures 

How to deal with low blood sugar 

The American Diabetes Association recommends “the 15-15 rule” to treat hypoglycemia. The rule says to have 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar and check it after 15 minutes. If the blood sugar is still below 70 mg/dL, have another serving of 15 grams and check again in 15 minutes. Continue doing this until it reaches above the minimum (over 70). Three spoons of honey/sugar, a cup of milk and 20 grapes - all of these contain 15gms of carbs each. 

If a child is having a hypoglycemic episode, you can reduce the number of carbs or sugar you give them to 6-8 grams depending on their age: the lower the age the lesser the carbs.

Avoid complex carbohydrate sources such as wheat bread or foods that have fats along with carbs such as chocolates - both types of foods are absorbed in a slower rate and are therefore not meant for emergency use.

Severe cases of hypoglycemia

Even after doing all this, it is possible for your blood sugar to stay below normal range - this could happen especially in people living with type 1 diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes). Don't hesitate to call an ambulance in such a situation.

If you have glucagon (available only on prescription), inject it on the hip, thigh or arm as per the instructions printed on the kit. In case you are not the patient but a bystander, help them with the instructions and the injection. In case the patient has fainted, they should regain consciousness 5-15 minutes after a glucagon injection. Don't give food or fluid to unconscious patients as they can choke on them. Never inject insulin for hypoglycemia, it will take the sugar level down further.

Blood sugar below 54 mg/dL requires immediate medical attention. 

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Complications.

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