If you think your blood sugar may be dipping too low, check your blood sugar level with a blood glucose meter. Then eat or drink something that's mostly sugar or carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar level quickly. Pure glucose — found in tablets, gels and other forms — is the preferred treatment.
Foods with more fat, such as chocolate, don't raise blood sugar as quickly. And diet soft drinks cannot be used to treat an episode of hypoglycemia because they don't have any sugar.
Examples of foods that do raise your blood sugar level quickly include:
- Four glucose tablets (available without a prescription at most pharmacies)
- A serving of glucose gel (read the label for amount)
- Five to six pieces of hard candy or jelly beans (check the food label for the exact serving)
- Four ounces (120 milliliters) of fruit juice or regular — not diet — soda
- One tablespoon (15 milliliters) of sugar, corn syrup or honey
In general, food or drink with 15 grams of carbohydrates is often enough to raise your blood sugar levels back into a safe range.
Check your blood sugar level 15 minutes after eating or drinking something to treat your hypoglycemia. If your blood sugar is still too low, eat or drink something sugary again. Repeat this pattern until your blood sugar is above 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L).
When you feel better, have a snack or a meal to keep your blood sugar from dropping again. If you normally take insulin with food, you generally don't need additional insulin if you're eating a snack after having a low blood sugar. If you're going to eat a meal, however, you may need a reduced dose of insulin to ensure that your blood sugar doesn't rise too quickly.
If you have symptoms of low blood sugar but can't check your blood sugar level right away, assume your blood sugar is low and treat for hypoglycemia.
It's important to try not to overtreat your low blood sugar. If you do, you may cause your blood sugar level to rise too high, which will make you feel thirsty and tired. And high blood sugar levels increase your risk of long-term diabetes complications if you have them often.
Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood sugar quickly. It can be lifesaving if someone isn't alert enough to eat or drink something to raise his or her blood sugar. Glucagon is available only by prescription.
Glucagon comes in an emergency syringe kit or as a nasal treatment. Store glucagon as directed on the packaging and be aware of the expiration date. When given to someone who is unconscious, the person should be turned on his or her side to prevent choking in case of vomiting.
About 15 minutes after getting glucagon, the person should be alert and able to eat. If someone doesn't respond within 15 minutes, call emergency medical care. If someone quickly responds to glucagon, it's still recommended that you contact his or her diabetes doctor promptly.
If you've had a low blood sugar episode that was serious enough to require help from others, your doctor will want to figure out if your insulin or other diabetes medication needs to be adjusted to prevent another serious episode.
Some people have frequent and severe hypoglycemia despite medication adjustments. In these circumstances, your doctor may recommend that you keep your blood sugar in a higher than normal range.
He or she may also suggest that you use a continuous glucose monitor — a device that measures your blood sugar every few minutes via a sensor inserted underneath the skin. Your doctor will also likely recommend that you have glucagon with you at all times.
Some people don't have or don't recognize early symptoms of hypoglycemia (hypoglycemia unawareness). If you have hypoglycemia unawareness, you may need to aim for a higher glucose target range.
It's also very important to check your blood sugar consistently before going to bed and to have a snack containing carbohydrates before going to sleep if your blood sugar is lower than your bedtime target. Your doctor may also recommend a continuous glucose monitor that can sound an alarm when your blood sugar is dropping.