How do I treat low blood sugar if I have diabetes?

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
Treating any low is simply a matter of taking on some sugar. All diabetics should carry glucose tabs or some hard candy. Chocolate, although good for the soul and possibly the heart, is a poor choice to cure a hypo. Chocolate has too much fat; it will move into the blood too slowly. Juice or half a regular soda will also turn most hypos around.

The official rule is called The Rule of 15. Take on 15 grams of sugar, then wait the longest 15 minutes of your life and re-test. If your numbers have started to move up, do nothing more. If your numbers are flat or lower, eat another 15 grams. It is easy to over-eat a low and send yourself too high. We call this a rebound excursion, and it is almost as bad for you as the low itself.
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Almost everyone with diabetes experiences low blood sugar -- or hypoglycemia -- at one time or another. If your blood sugar gets too low, you're at risk of losing consciousness, which can be dangerous. The key is to recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia and treat them before your blood glucose level drops too low. People on the brink of hypoglycemia often feel shaky, dizzy, and weak. Ask your doctor about strategies to quickly boost your blood sugar by eating carbs -- a half-cup of juice, for instance -- or taking an injection of glucagon, a blood-sugar-raising drug prescribed by your doctor.
Melissa Joy Dobbins
Nutrition & Dietetics

Knowing how to properly treat low blood sugar is very important and often misunderstood. The best way is the "rule of 15s". If you feel the symptoms of low blood sugar (shaky, sweaty, dizzy), follow these steps:

1. Check your blood sugar. If it is below 70, it is low and needs to be treated. If you are unable to check your sugar, it is safest to go ahead and treat it assuming your blood sugar is low. However, if you do this often, you may be treating blood sugars that are not truly "low". This could cause your blood sugar to rise above target ranges.

2. Treat with 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate. The best and most portable choice is glucose tablets, available at any drug store. Other options are 1/2 cup of juice or 1/2 cup of regular soda. Never use chocolate or candy bars since they contain fat which will slow down the rise in blood sugar.

3. Wait 15 minutes and recheck your blood sugar to make sure it is up above 70.

4. If it is still below 70, treat with another 15 grams of carbohydrate. If it is above 70 and you were not planning to eat within the next hour, add a snack that contains some carbohydrate, protein and fat, such as a half sandwich, to keep your blood sugar up until the next meal or snack.

To prevent low blood sugar reactions, try not to skip meals or snacks, or go too long between meals and snacks.


Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
When symptoms of low blood sugar strike, check your blood sugar level if possible. If you can't because your meter isn't around or the symptoms are coming on too quickly, just go ahead and treat it immediately to prevent your blood glucose from going even lower and possibly causing you to lose consciousness.

When you feel the effect of low blood sugar, eat a 15-gram portion of sugar or sugar-containing food. The ideal choice is glucose tablets or a glucose gel, both available at any pharmacy. They're portioned to make it easy to grab 15 grams' worth and don't have to be refrigerated. Keep them in places where you might need them in a hurry, such as next to your bed or couch, at your desk, or in your car. If neither of these is available, the next best choice is four to five pieces of hard candy or ½ cup of fruit juice. After taking the glucose or other sugar-rich food, wait fifteen minutes and check your blood sugar level again. If it's not rising, you can repeat the process. Avoid the temptation to eat more than one 15-gram portion of glucose or sugar-containing food during that initial fifteen-minute period. It can be hard, especially when you feel so bad as a result of the low blood sugar, but eating too much too quickly will simply drive your sugar very high once you've recovered. After your blood sugar level begins to rise, eat a small snack that includes some longer-lasting carbohydrates, healthy fat, and protein, such as a whole-grain cracker topped with a little mayonnaise and a slice of chicken or spread with nut butter. This will help prevent your blood sugar level from falling once the glucose or sugar is used up.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.