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Woman-hypoglycemia

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

Nausea

Feeling nervous, irritable or anxious

Feeling confused or unable to concentrate

Hunger

Increased heart rate

Sweating

Headache

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:

  • 15 g of glucose tabs
  • ¾ cup non-diet pop or juice
  • 1 tbsp of sugar or honey
  • 6 LifeSavers®

Severe lows:

If your blood glucose is less than
2.8 mmol/L or you feel confused or disoriented, somebody needs to help you.

If you’re alert and able to swallow, they should give you 20 g of fast-acting carbohydrate, like2:

  • 20 g of glucose tabs
  • 1-2 tbsp of sugar or honey
  • 1 cup non-diet pop or juice

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.

  • If it’s still below 4.0 mmol/L, take 15 g of fast-acting carbohydrate.
  • If your blood glucose is above 4.0 mmol/L and your next meal or snack is more than 1 hour away, have a snack of carbs and proteins (e.g., crackers and cheese or bread and peanut butter)

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
 

References:

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 May 25th, 2017.

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.

NACO/LFS/0517/0373(1)