Hypoglycemia Symptoms: The Telltale Signs and What to Do
Recognize signs of hypoglycemia and take action.
Even when you do your best to manage your blood glucose, you might experience lows. These lows can be dangerous if you don’t act quickly. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar (blood glucose lower than 4.0 mmol/L)1 is a deficiency of glucose in your blood. The reference table below can help you quickly recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and know what to do. You may want to print it off and keep it handy as a reference for the first while. If your blood glucose levels are consistently low, speak with your healthcare team. Your diabetes management plan may need to be adjusted.
Recognize and treat symptoms of hypoglycemia
|Signs to look out for||What to do|
Feeling shaky or light-headed
Feeling nervous, irritable or anxious
Feeling confused or unable to concentrate
Increased heart rate
Feeling weak or drowsy
Numbness or tingling in your tongue or lips
STEP 1: Treat it right away
Mild and moderate lows(blood glucose lower than 4.0 mmol/L):
Take 15 g of fast-acting carbohydrate, like2:
If your blood glucose is less than
If you’re alert and able to swallow, they should give you 20 g of fast-acting carbohydrate, like2:
If you’re unconscious, someone needs to give you a glucagon injection and call 911.
STEP 2: Wait and re-test
After treating, wait 15 minutes and then test your blood glucose.
Be prepared in case you experience low blood sugar. Have fast-acting carbohydrates available in case of an emergency.
Because you may need help from those around you, it may be helpful to:
- Wear a MedicAlert® bracelet to notify people of your condition
- Alert those close to you (friends, family, coaches) on symptoms to watch out for and what to do
- Be sure to share this list and information with your friends and family so they are informed and can help
- Have snacks and glucose tabs handy at all times especially when you’re out
1 Canadian Diabetes Association. Lows and highs: blood glucose levels. Available at: http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/blood-glucose-insulin/lows-highs-blood-glucose-levels. Accessed September 30, 2018.
2 Clayton D, Woo, V, Yale JF, et al. Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: hypoglycemia. Can J Diabetes 2013;37(suppl 1): S69-S71.