What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia can simply be described as abnormally low blood sugar level i.e. blood sugar level below 70 mg/dl. Hypoglycemia is linked to diabetes, however many other things may also cause hypoglycemia. Alcohol abuse, severe illness, certain medicines, liver and kidney disorder may also cause hypoglycemia.

In diabetic patients, it happens when

  • there is too much insulin in the blood,
  • the intake of food is insufficient or delayed after insulin is taken or,
  • they have had excessive physical activity.

Symptoms

  • Sweating and trembling
  • Rapid pulse and accelerated heart rate
  • Increased Hunger
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of concentration
  • Irrational behavior
  • Seizures, loss of consciousness and coma (Rare occurrences)

If you see any of these symptoms in yourself remember to follow the “Rule of 15” as prescribed by the American Diabetes Association

Step 1: Check your blood sugar. If it is below 70 mg/dl.

Step2: Consume 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates. Wait for about 15minutes before you test your blood sugar again.

Step 3: If the reading is still below 70 mg/dl, eat another 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates. Check your blood sugar again after 15 minutes. Repeat the process until your blood sugar is 70 mg/dl or higher.

But, if your blood sugar does not increase and you feel increasingly weak, sleepy and less alert, call an ambulance as soon as you can. Ask someone to stay with you until the ambulance arrives.

If you don’t have a blood sugar testing instrument around you, eat something sugary anyway as this could restore blood sugar quickly and do little or no harm in case of high blood sugar.

If you see any of these symptoms in anyone else around you, follow the same “Rule 15”. But, before you administer any fast-acting carbohydrates, test if he/she can swallow by giving the person ½ teaspoon of water to swallow. If he/she is able to swallow without choking, follow the aforementioned steps from Step 1 to Step 3.

What do you do if a person is unconscious or unable to swallow?

  • If the person is choking and is unable to swallow even water, ensure that his/her airway is not blocked.
  • Don’t try to force-feed them as it could block airways.
  • If you’re trained to administer glucagon, do so. This can raise blood sugar levels immediately.
  • Call an ambulance immediately.
  • Stay by the person until the ambulance arrives.

Useful points to memorize

Remember that liquids will raise your blood sugar faster than solids. Here is a small list of fast-acting carbohydrate:

  • Glucose tablets (3-4)
  • Glucose gel (15 grams)
  • Fruit juice (100-150ml)
  • Sugar (1 tbsp or 15 grams)
  • Corn syrup (1 tbsp or 15 grams)
  • Honey (1 tbsp or 15 grams)
  • Regular soft drinks (100-150ml)
  • Candies and jelly beans (15 grams)

The emergency carbohydrate shouldn’t include proteins or fats as it may slow down the absorption rate.

If you’re a diabetic patient, it is advisable to inform your friends, family, and colleagues about “Rule 15” and give them a background of your medical history. Always have emergency phone numbers on your person.

Severe hypoglycemia can cause irreversible damage to the brain and the heart. If left untreated, hypoglycemia could be fatal. Awareness is important for acting quickly.

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