People with diabetes try hard to keep their blood sugar from getting too high, but sometimes they succeed too well. Certain diabetes medications — including insulin injections and pills such as chlorpropamide (Diabinese) — can sometimes make blood sugar too low, a condition called hypoglycemia. People with diabetes can also get low blood sugar simply by skimping at mealtime, drinking too much alcohol, or overexercising.
Low blood sugar is usually mild and easy to fix, but if you wait too long, you can lose consciousness. If your blood sugar level drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or if you notice signs of hypoglycemia — shakiness, dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, anxiety, weakness, heart palpitations, blurry vision, hunger, or sweating — you can bring your level up again with a quick, sugary snack. If you are away from home and experience symptoms, and you can’t test your blood sugar first, it’s better to have a small snack before you become even more ill.
Here are some proven sugar-boosting options:
- One-half cup of fruit juice
- One-half cup of non-diet soda
- 1 cup of milk
- A small handful of hard candy
- 1 tablespoon of either sugar or honey
- 3 or 4 glucose tablets
About 15 minutes after your snack, check your blood sugar again. If you’re still below 70, try another dose of sugar. Check again 15 minutes later, and keep the pattern up until your blood sugar is in a normal range.
It’s important to treat low blood sugar as quickly as possible. If you wait too long, you could pass out. For this reason, you should keep a sugary snack within reach at all times. Even if you aren’t able to check your blood sugar, you can head off hypoglycemia whenever you get that sinking feeling.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypoglycemia. October 2008. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/hypoglycemia/
American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/hypoglycemia.jsp
Mayo Clinic. Hypoglycemia. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypoglycemia/DS00198/DSECTION=symptoms