If your blood
sugar drops very low (usually below 20 mg/dL) and you do not get help, you
could become confused or drowsy or even lose consciousness and possibly die. If
you are pregnant, your baby could be harmed.
Low blood sugar can
develop if you take too much insulin, do not eat enough food or skip meals,
exercise without eating enough, or drink too much alcohol (especially on an
You can usually treat mild—and sometimes
moderate—low blood sugar by eating something that contains
You should teach your friends and coworkers what to do if
your blood sugar is very low.
How to deal with low blood sugar emergencies
are some ways you can manage low blood sugar.
Always be prepared for the possibility of having a
low blood sugar level.
Keep some quick-sugar foods with you at all
times. If you are at home, you will probably already have something close at
hand that contains sugar, such as table sugar or fruit juice. Carry some hard
candy or glucose tablets with you when you are away from home. Quick-sugar foods are foods you need to eat to raise your blood sugar.
the symptoms of low blood sugar, such as sweating, blurred vision, and confusion. Post a list of the
symptoms where you will see it
often, and carry a copy in your wallet or purse. Add any symptoms you have
noticed that may not be on the list. Be sure that your partner (and others)
knows your early symptoms, including the signs of low blood sugar at
Wear medical identification. Always wear medical
identification, such as a
medical alert bracelet, to let people know that you have diabetes. In case your
blood sugar drops very low and you need help, people will know that you have
diabetes and will get help for you if necessary.
glucagon on hand. If you become unconscious when your
blood sugar is very low, someone may need to give you a shot of glucagon to
raise your blood sugar. Be sure someone knows how to give you the shot. Have
the person practice by giving you your insulin shot once or twice a month. This
will help the person be confident if he or she has to give you a shot of
glucagon in an emergency. Keep the instructions for
how to give glucagon with the medicine. Also, check the expiration date on
your glucagon. Most kits need to be replaced every 6 months.
others (at work and at home) how to check your blood sugar in case you cannot
check it yourself. Have instructions for how to use your blood sugar (glucose)
meter to check your blood sugar with the meter so the person can review the
Teach other people (at work and at home) what to do
in case your blood sugar becomes very low. Post information on
emergency care for low blood sugar in a convenient
place at home and at work. Go over with others the steps they need to take when
your blood sugar is very low.
Treat low blood sugar levels as soon as you (or someone else) notice the
Check your blood sugar often. If you have had
diabetes for many years, you may not have symptoms until your blood sugar is
very low. Checking your blood sugar regularly and also whenever you think it
may be low will take the guesswork out of treating low blood sugar
Follow your doctor's instructions for
dealing with low blood sugar when you first
develop your symptoms of low blood sugar or when your blood sugar level is
below 70 mg/dL. Encourage others to tell you if they notice you are developing
signs of low blood sugar.
Keep a record(What is a PDF document?) of low blood sugar levels. Write down your symptoms
and how you treated your low blood sugar. Look for patterns in when and what you ate, your activity (especially if more than usual), and medicine that could have caused the low blood sugar.
Notify your doctor. Let her or him know if you are having low
blood sugar problems. Your insulin dosage may need to be adjusted.
Other Works Consulted
American Diabetes Association (2014). Standards of medical care in diabetes—2014. Diabetes Care, 37(Suppl 1): S14–S80. DOI: 10.2337/dc14-S014. Accessed January 7, 2014.
Beaser RS (2010). Using insulin to treat diabetes: General principles. In RS Beaser, ed., Joslin's Diabetes Deskbook: A Guide for Primary Care Providers, 2nd ed., pp. 263–296. Boston, MA: Joslin Diabetes Center.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.