What is low blood sugar emergency?

Preventing low blood sugar emergencies

Follow these steps to help prevent low blood sugar.

  • If possible, use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

    This is a useful tool to help predict when your blood sugar is getting too low.

  • Keep some quick-sugar foods with you at all times.
    • Choose foods that contain fast-acting carbohydrate. At home, you may have fruit juice or table sugar on hand.
    • Carry hard candy or glucose tablets when you are away from home.
  • Know the symptoms of low blood sugar.

    They include sweating, blurred vision, and confusion. Always carry a list of the symptoms with you.

  • Check your blood sugar often.
    • This is the best way to know if your blood sugar is low. If you've had diabetes for many years, you may not have symptoms until your blood sugar is very low.
    • Do not drive if your blood sugar level is less than 70 mg/dL.
  • Wear medical identification at all times.

    Wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace is important in case your blood sugar drops very low and you need help.

  • Teach your friends, family, and coworkers about low blood sugar.
    • Be sure they know the symptoms of low blood sugar. Post a list of the symptoms at home and at work.
    • Show them how to check your blood sugar if you can't check it yourself. Keep the instructions for your blood sugar meter with the meter.
    • Tell them what to do in case your blood sugar becomes very low. Post emergency care instructions at home and at work.
  • If you take insulin, always carry glucagon with you.

    Be sure your family, friends, and coworkers know how to give glucagon.

Treating low blood sugar in children

Follow these steps when your child's blood sugar level is below the target range (usually below 70 mg/dL). Share treatment instructions with your child's family, friends, and teachers.

  • Be alert for low blood sugar.
    • Check your child's blood sugar level if you think it may be low, even if you don't see any symptoms.
    • Notice if your child has symptoms of low blood sugar. Symptoms include sweating, shakiness, hunger, blurred vision, dizziness, and confusion. Be aware that your child may not always have the same symptoms.
  • Offer quick-sugar food when your child has low blood sugar.
    • Give your child carbohydrate from quick-sugar food, such as glucose tablets, fruit juice, or hard candy. Liquids will raise blood sugar faster than solid foods. While many adults use 15 grams of carbohydrate, children usually need less. For example, a child under 5 years old might only need 5 grams, and a child 5 to 10 years old might only need 10 grams. Every child is different. Check with your doctor or diabetes educator for the amount that is right for your child's current age and weight.
    • Wait about 15 minutes after your child eats the carbohydrate. Check your child's blood sugar level again.
    • If blood sugar is still below 70 mg/dL, give your child the same recommended amount of carbohydrate from quick-sugar food.
    • Repeat the same recommended amount of carbohydrate every 15 minutes until your child's blood sugar is in a safe target range, such as 70 mg/dL or higher.
    • When your child's blood sugar returns to the target range, give your child a small snack if the next planned meal or snack is more than a few hours away.
  • Know when to get help.

    Get emergency help if your child's blood sugar stays below 70 mg/dL or your child is getting more sleepy and less alert. Stay with your child until blood sugar is above 70 mg/dL or until emergency help arrives.

Treating low blood sugar: Information for family, friends, and coworkers

If you have low blood sugar, share this with others. If your child has diabetes, give this to teachers, coaches, and other school staff.

While many adults use 15 grams of carbohydrate, children usually need less. Check with your doctor or diabetes educator for the amount that is right for your child before giving this handout to family and friends.

Use the following information to help someone who is too weak or confused to treat their low blood sugar. If the person takes medicine that can cause low blood sugar, stay with the person for a few hours after their blood sugar level has returned to the target range.
  • Make sure the person can swallow.
    • If the person is lying down, lift their head so it will be easier for them to swallow.
    • Give the person 0.5 tsp (2.5 mL) of water to swallow.
  • If the person can swallow the water without choking or coughing:
    • Give the person about 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate, such as 4 fl oz (118 mL) to 6 fl oz (177 mL) of fruit juice or sweetened (not sugar-free) soda pop.
    • Wait about 15 minutes.
    • If a blood sugar meter is available, check the person's blood sugar level.
    • Give the person another 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate if they are feeling better but still have some symptoms of low blood sugar. These include sweating, trembling, and confusion.
    • Wait about 15 minutes. If you can, check the blood sugar level again.
    • If the person becomes more sleepy or sluggish, call 911 or other emergency services.
    • Stay with the person until their blood sugar level is 70 mg/dL or higher or until emergency help comes.
  • If the person chokes or coughs on the water, or if the person is unconscious:
    • Do not try to give the person foods or liquids. Those things could be inhaled. This is dangerous.
    • Turn the person on their side, and make sure their airway is not blocked.
    • Prepare the glucagon and give it as directed (if the person has a glucagon kit). It may be given as a shot or nasal spray.
    • After you give the glucagon, immediately call 911 for emergency care.
    • If emergency help has not arrived within 15 minutes and the person is still unconscious, give another dose of glucagon.
    • Stay with the person until emergency help comes.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.