Advertisement

What to Do If Your Blood Sugar Drops

If your mind is cloudy, hands shake and you begin to sweat, you might be experiencing low blood sugar.

What to Do If Your Blood Sugar Drops

The balance between glucose, or sugar, and insulin in an individual’s bloodstream is a delicate one. For people with diabetes, glucose and insulin levels are vital—too little insulin can cause glucose to climb to dangerous levels. Too much insulin, however, can cause low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which can be an emergency. Individuals living with diabetes and those around them should know the signs of low blood sugar, and how to quickly treat the condition.

Hypoglycemia can cause seizures or loss of consciousness, making it an important condition to detect and treat as soon as possible. Levels that fall below 70 milligrams per deciliter are considered low and often dangerous.

A drop in blood sugar in diabetics can be caused by a number of factors, including too much insulin or other medication for diabetes, unusually vigorous exercise, drinking alcohol (especially without food) or skipping meals.

Know the symptoms: The first step in treating a drop in blood sugar is knowing the signs. In addition to educating yourself on the symptoms of hypoglycemia, it’s important to let your family, friends and others around you know what to look for.

The symptoms of low blood sugar usually begin quickly, with mild signs like headache, shakiness, sweating, hunger and irritability. It’s possible for low blood sugar to occur at night when an individual is sleeping, too. Nightmares, profuse sweating and confusion when waking can signal a drop in blood sugar.

Symptoms can progress into seizures, drowsiness, confusion and unconsciousness, which can be especially dangerous when an individual is driving, exercising or operating machinery.

Learn the treatment options: The only way to confirm low blood sugar is to test it. If you think your blood sugar might be low, try eating 15 to 20 grams of glucose or simple carbs, like half a cup of fruit juice, five hard candies or the package recommendation of glucose tablets. After about 15 minutes, check your blood sugar again. If the glucose level has not risen above 70 mg/dL, consume another 15 to 20 grams of glucose. If your next meal isn’t within an hour or so, eating a small snack, like cheese and crackers or peanut butter, should keep blood sugar from dropping again.

If symptoms are not detected before an individual loses consciousness, someone will need to take control of the situation. Losing consciousness is more common for individuals with hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which there are no symptoms of low blood sugar. A caregiver or someone nearby may need to inject glucagon, a prescription hormone that stimulates the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream. Coworkers, family members or significant others should be informed on how to administer glucagon.

If the individual doesn’t regain consciousness after the glucagon is injected, or a bystander doesn’t feel comfortable performing the injection, call 911 immediately. Hypoglycemic episodes should be recorded and may need to be reported to a doctor, who can help prevent future episodes of low blood sugar.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

An Interactive Journey Into Diabetes
An Interactive Journey Into Diabetes
Everything You Need to Know About Type 2 Diabetes
Everything You Need to Know About Type 2 DiabetesEverything You Need to Know About Type 2 DiabetesEverything You Need to Know About Type 2 DiabetesEverything You Need to Know About Type 2 Diabetes
A Beginner's Guide to Exercising With Diabetes
A Beginner's Guide to Exercising With DiabetesA Beginner's Guide to Exercising With DiabetesA Beginner's Guide to Exercising With DiabetesA Beginner's Guide to Exercising With Diabetes
Quality Sleep Impacts Blood Sugar
Quality Sleep Impacts Blood Sugar
4 Lessons From Cities With Low Diabetes Incidences
4 Lessons From Cities With Low Diabetes Incidences
How Type 2 Diabetes Can Change the Heart
How Type 2 Diabetes Can Change the Heart
4 Things to Know About Diabetic Heart Disease
4 Things to Know About Diabetic Heart Disease
3 Diabetes Numbers That Are as Important as A1C
3 Diabetes Numbers That Are as Important as A1C
My Diabetes Story: David
My Diabetes Story: David
Good Carb, Bad Carb: Do You Know the Difference?
Good Carb, Bad Carb: Do You Know the Difference?
Protect Your Teeth and Gums From Diabetes
Protect Your Teeth and Gums From Diabetes
Eating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to Avoid
Eating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to AvoidEating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to AvoidEating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to AvoidEating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to Avoid
6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes
6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes
A Guide to Diabetes-Friendly Movie Snacks
A Guide to Diabetes-Friendly Movie Snacks
What to Know—and What to Forget—About Diabetes
What to Know—and What to Forget—About DiabetesWhat to Know—and What to Forget—About DiabetesWhat to Know—and What to Forget—About DiabetesWhat to Know—and What to Forget—About Diabetes
How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues
9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues
3 Easy Ways to Manage Your Diabetes
3 Easy Ways to Manage Your Diabetes
The Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
The Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Get a Good Night’s Sleep for Better Blood Sugar
Get a Good Night’s Sleep for Better Blood Sugar
6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike
6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike
Living Well With Type 2 Diabetes
Living Well With Type 2 Diabetes
Your Diabetes-Friendly Shopping List
Your Diabetes-Friendly Shopping List
How Type 2 Diabetes Affects Your Organs
How Type 2 Diabetes Affects Your Organs
Know Your Risk: Diabetic Heart Disease
Know Your Risk: Diabetic Heart Disease
5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body
5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body
How Diabetes Can Impact Your Sex Life
How Diabetes Can Impact Your Sex Life
Which Type of Exercise Is Best to Manage My Diabetes?
Which Type of Exercise Is Best to Manage My Diabetes?
How Glucose and Insulin Help Your Body Function
How Glucose and Insulin Help Your Body Function
Type 2 Diabetes: 5 Simple Strategies for Healthier Habits
Type 2 Diabetes: 5 Simple Strategies for Healthier Habits
5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas
5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas
Treating Your Type 2 Diabetes
Treating Your Type 2 Diabetes
Strawberry and Banana Smoothie
Strawberry and Banana Smoothie
Diabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your Desk
Diabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your DeskDiabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your DeskDiabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your DeskDiabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your Desk
4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes
4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes
See How Type 2 Diabetes Affects the Whole Body—Not Just the Pancreas
See How Type 2 Diabetes Affects the Whole Body—Not Just the Pancreas
Are You Ready to Try a Plant-Based Diet?
Are You Ready to Try a Plant-Based Diet?
How to Exercise With Type 2 Diabetes
How to Exercise With Type 2 DiabetesHow to Exercise With Type 2 DiabetesHow to Exercise With Type 2 DiabetesHow to Exercise With Type 2 Diabetes
7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes
7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes
The Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes
The Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes
Sip This Peanut Butter and Raspberry Smoothie
Sip This Peanut Butter and Raspberry Smoothie
7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It
7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It