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Low Blood Sugar: Emergency Care

Low Blood Sugar: Emergency Care

Topic Overview

This information is for people who may help you if you are too weak or confused to treat your own low blood sugar from diabetes or some other health condition that can cause low blood sugar. Make a copy for your partner, coworkers, and friends. If your child has diabetes, you need to provide a copy for teachers, coaches, and other school staff.

If the person has type 2 diabetes and is taking medicine that can continue to cause low blood sugar, stay with the person for a few hours after his or her blood sugar level has returned to the target range.

  • Make sure the person can swallow.
    1. Lift the person's head so that it will be easier for the person to swallow.
    2. Give the person ½ teaspoon of water to swallow.
  • If the person can swallow the water without choking or coughing:
    1. Give him or her 4 fl oz (118 mL) to 6 fl oz (177 mL) of liquid (juice or soda pop) from the list of quick-sugar foods.
    2. Wait 10 to 15 minutes.
    3. If a home blood sugar meter is available, check the person's blood sugar level.
    4. Offer the person more quick-sugar food if he or she is feeling better but still has some symptoms of low blood sugar.
    5. Wait 10 to 15 minutes. If possible, check the blood sugar level again.
    6. When the person's blood sugar returns to normal, offer the person a snack (such as cheese and crackers or half of a sandwich).
    7. If the person becomes more sleepy or lethargic, call 911 or other emergency services.
    8. Stay with the person until his or her blood sugar level is 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher or until emergency help comes.
  • If the person chokes or coughs on the water:
    1. Do not try to give the person foods or liquids, because they could be inhaled.
    2. Give the person a shot of glucagon if one is available. Follow the directions given with the glucagon medicine. View a slideshow of steps for preparing a glucagon injection and a slideshow for giving a glucagon injection .
    3. After you give the glucagon shot, immediately call 911 for emergency care.
    4. If emergency help has not arrived within 5 minutes and the person is still unconscious, give another glucagon shot.
    5. If a home blood sugar meter is available, check the person's blood sugar level.
    6. Stay with the person until emergency help comes.
  • If the person is unconscious but not having a seizure:
    1. Turn the person on his or her side, and make sure the airway is not blocked.
    2. Give the person a shot of glucagon if one is available. Follow the directions given with the medicine. View a slideshow of steps for preparing a glucagon injection and a slideshow for giving a glucagon injection .
    3. After you give the glucagon shot, immediately call 911 for emergency care.
    4. If emergency help has not arrived within 5 minutes and the person is still unconscious, give another glucagon shot.
    5. If a home blood sugar meter is available, check the person's blood sugar level.
    6. If the person becomes more alert, carefully give a quick-sugar food or liquid.
    7. If possible, check the person's blood sugar level again.
    8. Stay with the person until emergency help comes.
  • If the person is unconscious and is having a seizure:
    1. Get the person in a safe position, such as lying flat on the floor. Turn the person's head to the side.
    2. Do not try to give him or her anything to eat or drink or put anything in the mouth.
    3. If glucagon is available, give the person a shot of glucagon when the seizure stops.
    4. After you give the glucagon shot, immediately call 911 for emergency care.
    5. If emergency help has not arrived within 5 minutes and the person is still unconscious, give another glucagon shot.
    6. Stay with the person until emergency help comes.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jennifer Hone, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Last Revised July 1, 2011

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