More Tips for Dealing With Low Blood Sugars

Treatment Tips For The Person With Diabetes

Avoid low blood sugars through careful management of insulin doses and carbohydrate intake. This is always the best strategy and is particularly important for people on insulin who live alone. However, even with the best of efforts, hypoglycemia does happen. When a low blood sugar occurs, the following tips can help in treating it quickly and effectively:

  • Practice recognizing early symptoms so that a low blood sugar does not become severe. After a low, look back at what might have warned you earlier.
  • Never delay treatment. Treat a low as soon as you recognize it.
  • Always carry quick carbs like glucose tablets or simple sugar candies to eat when a low occurs or when you have any reason to suspect a low.
  • Let family and friends know when you may be more vulnerable to lows because you are changing your insulin doses or lifestyle. Share what is happening with your blood sugar control so that others can help.
  • Assume the primary responsibility for handling and treating your own low blood sugars, but always be willing to accept help from others. Be sure family and friends know about your diabetes and what they can do to help, while you stay in charge of your day-to-day management.
  • Never resist when someone suggests that you test your blood sugar. Check as soon as the suggestion is given.
  • Test more often when you change your insulin doses or food choices, when stress decreases, and when activity increases.
  • Unusual upper body activity or exercise often leads to a low blood sugar. Eat extra carbs before digging, raking, moving boxes, washing your car, or playing tennis, and other such activities you do not routinely do. Test often during and after this activity.

Treatment Tips For Helpers

Whenever someone on insulin is acting abnormally, consider a low blood sugar first. The person may appear drunk, on drugs, needy, obnoxious or mentally impaired, b ut the real cause is an overdose of insulin. Sugar is needed to bring the blood sugar back to normal. Sugar, a soda, glucose or candy can correct abnormal behavior in 10 to 20 minutes.

Being helpful becomes more difficult when the person with the low blood sugar becomes irrational, confused, or angry as a result of a low. Here are some things that may help:

  • Control your emotions first. If the person you are attempting to help is stubborn, acts silly, or becomes angry, do not take it personally. Prepare your mind ahead of time to deal with the variety of hypoglycemia-induced attitudes you may encounter.
  • Take charge of the situation, using a gentle but firm tone. A non-confrontational stance, such as sitting or standing beside the person, may help.
  • Avoid direct questions like “Are you low?”, “Do you need to test?”, “Do you need to eat?” or “What do you want to eat?” The person who is unable to think clearly is incapable of making rational decisions and will respond with a “NO” as the most convenient answer.
  • Instead say, “Here, have this piece of candy.” or “I’m going to drink a coke (take a drink yourself); here, have a sip.” or “Drink this. It’s good and will make you feel better.” Get sugar into them in any way possible.
  • Do not let the person drive a car, run machinery, or become involved in other dangerous activities that require coordination.
  • Ask for help from others when needed. Keep embarrassment to a minimum and the person’s cooperation as high as possible.

Insulin Doses Can Be Reduced

Many people on pumps or injections tailor their insulin doses to their carbs and activity every day. Other people use set doses of insulin each day. When using insulin, it is wise to remember that insulin doses can always be adjusted to the situation. Books like Pumping Insulin and Using Insulin are very helpful in understanding how to succeed at this. Always remember that your doctor, nurse educator and dietician can be very helpful when you desire to be more proactive in your own care.

Insulin doses need to be lowered:
  • When insulin reactions are frequent or severe.*
  • When reactions occur within 1 to 2.5 hours after an injection of Humalog or NovoLog, or within 2 to 4 hours after an injection of Regular. (i.e. carb coverage)*
  • When insulin reactions often require more than 20 grams of glucose to bring the blood sugar back to normal.*
  • Before exercise, especially when it will be moderate or strenuous, and last longer than 40 minutes.
  • After exercise that was long or strenuous. Reduced doses needed for up to 24 or 36 hours following the activity.
  • When you decide to eat light and lose weight
  • Before meals that are smaller than usual.
  • When stress is reduced, as during a vacation.
*Call your physician to discuss an immediate lowering of your insulin doses.

Diabetes Response Service – the only scheduled proactive self-management Personal Call System using live operators to monitor, alert and prevent severe diabetic hypoglycemia.