5 ways to help someone experiencing hypoglycemia

5 Ways To Help Someone Experiencing Hypoglycemia

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is when the sugar in blood falls below an individual’s healthy levels. As a friend or loved one of a person living with diabetes, you can help by being prepared to help manage or treat hypoglycemia when it happens. 

Sometimes the cause of hypoglycemia can be obvious: too much insulin, too little food, delayed meals or snacks after taking insulin, physical activity, illness, or medications. Other times, it seems to creep up for no apparent reason. 

Low blood sugar is considered low when blood glucose (BG) is less than 70 mg/dL. It is important to note that it is not unusual for some people with diabetes to experience symptoms of low blood sugar lower or even higher than 70 mg/dl - it can vary based on the individual. Anticipating low blood sugar can be challenging, so we’ve gathered five tips that can help you be prepared the next time someone needs you.  

1. Ask questions

It’s easier to talk about emergencies and other events when you’re removed from the situation. Pick a relaxing time when your loved one is feeling good to answer questions about their experience with hypoglycemia. For example, what does a low feel like for them? Some people may exhibit no warning signs at all. It’s best to work together so you have a plan for lows that happen suddenly.


2. Know the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia

Everyone’s signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can be different. They may range from mild symptoms to more severe. Here is the American Diabetes Association’s list of common signs and symptoms to look for:

  • Shakiness
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Sweating, chills, clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Confusion
  • Rapid/fast heartbeat
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Weakness, fatigue, and sleepiness
  • Mood swings and bizarre behavior
  • Hunger and nausea
  • Paleness
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Headaches
  • Loss of concentration
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
  • Lack of coordination, clumsiness
  • Nightmares or crying out during sleep
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness


3. Check blood sugar

There’s no harm in asking your loved one to check their blood sugar if their behavior seems off. It’s better to play it safe. It’s important to be stern, but not forceful, as your loved one may not be able to process information as well during an episode of low blood sugar.


4. Treat with the rule of 15

When someone with diabetes has a low blood glucose reading but is still conscious, provide them with 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates. After 15 minutes, have your loved one recheck their BG. If they’re still low, repeat the process. 

Don’t worry if it’s close to a mealtime because it’s a treatment – not a snack. You can always factor in excess carbs later. If you don’t already know, ask your loved one what kind of foods they like that can help treat a low. For instance, you wouldn’t want to give someone grapefruit juice if they can’t stand the taste. It’s best to find out and have appropriate options available. 

Here are some examples of fast-acting carbs:

  • Three to four glucose tablets or one gel
  • 4 ounces of fruit juice
  • 6 ounces of regular soda
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of table sugar
  • One packet of fruit snacks (gummies)


5. Be prepared to handle a hypoglycemia-related emergency

No one likes to think about their loved one becoming unconscious due to low blood sugar, but you need to be prepared for this possibility. If someone has such severe hypoglycemia that they lose consciousness or cannot eat or drink without assistance, do not try to force feed them. 

Call 911, and if you have been trained to do so, administer glucagon. 

Glucagon, a hormone that raises blood glucose levels, treats severe hypoglycemia when a patient is unresponsive. It is usually delivered through an injection into the muscle or a nasal powder. Talk to your loved one about whether they have a prescription for glucagon. Learn how to access, use, and administer it. Check glucagon kits expiration dates regularly and do not administer if it’s expired, discolored, or in the case of mixed injections, does not dissolve well. 

During a calmer time, you may consider getting a few close friends or family members together to practice using expired glucagon to learn what to do without actually administering it to a person. If you don’t have an expired glucagon injection kit, you can also practice the steps using a mixture of water and powder. 

Learning how to administer injectable glucagon may prove lifesaving. Be aware that glucagon may cause vomiting, so take proper precautions if your loved one with diabetes is prone to nausea. 

Have any questions or tips? Share them in the comments below!




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Submitted by Karrie Hawbaker (not verified) on

In reply to by Andiswa B (not verified)

Andiswa, I can imagine how scary this can be. Keep in mind we are not medical professionals, so we can't provide medical advice, but I recommend working with a local endocrinologist. They can give you the best recommendations based on your individual needs. Good luck to you.

Submitted by Sharon (not verified) on

In reply to by Andiswa B (not verified)

I sure hope u found someone that can help u I have a brother who has been a diabetic 1 sense he was 4 he’s 51 now for the last 6 years he can’t keep his sugar up at all he doesn’t even take insulin anyomore we have been everywhere to find someone who could help but haven’t found anyone yet so if u found someone who is helping u please let us no so maybe we can thanks and make god heal u mrs woolwine

Submitted by stacey m hall (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

Is it okay to let them fall asleep after an episode?

Submitted by Karrie Hawbaker (not verified) on

In reply to by stacey m hall (not verified)

Stacey, this is a good conversation to have with a healthcare provider. They can make the best recommendation based on individual needs.

Submitted by Olivia (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

Help. Im hypoglycemic but nothing is working. I feel sick Im shaking AMD I just wanna sleep. Im home alone.

Submitted by Karrie Hawbaker (not verified) on

In reply to by Olivia (not verified)

Olivia, I'm sorry to hear this. I hope you're feeling better, but I encourage you to reach out to your healthcare team to discuss this in more detail and get their recommendations. If you are a current Medtronic customer and need help with a device or supplies, please give our 24-hour helpline a call at 800.646.4633, option 1.

Submitted by Trish Wilson (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

My bs goes very low and I stay conscious! My healthcare worker saved my life when all I could say was “test”. It was so low it did not register. After a second try it was 32. I couldn’t speak anything that made sense. I felt like I was going out of my mind. My hearing was affected. She called my husband and he told her to put icing in my mouth and came right home. She continued to give me sugar and in 15 minutes when my husband got home I still could not think clearly. I got the chills then fell asleep. It was the longest lasting and worse feeling ever. That was 3 days ago and I still feel like I’m in a fog... I’m worried and so is my husband. But my bs is about 70 or 80 since then so I feel stupid going to dr.

Submitted by Lyn (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

Thank you! Five years later, I found this post while trying to make sure my advice to my spouse was correct.

Submitted by Shirley Johnson (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

I woke up at 4:30 this morning my blood sugar was low 58 I was scare one of my test say 58. and the other say 121 , I was confused didn't know what to do so I drink some orange it went up to 105 my monitor read low that's on my arm ,and my other read something different it was very scarey what should I do

Submitted by Nicole (not verified) on

In reply to by Shirley Johnson (not verified)

Shirley, we encourage you to discuss any concerns with your healthcare team.

Submitted by Ndidi (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

I was teaching my students when I suddenly felt dizzy. I don't know what happened afterwards. I opened my eyes to see myself on the floor, surrounded by my students & staff. My wig wasn't on my hair, my shoes weren't on my feet & they were pouring water on me. I was astonished. I tried to know what was going on but they said I should be calm. I was taken to hospital & it I had hypoglycemia 66. My head was severely aching & I was told that I fall & hit my head on the floor.

Submitted by Rae (not verified) on

In reply to by Ndidi (not verified)

Scary, Ndidi! We're hoping you're feeling much better.

Submitted by Wendy Connelly (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

Night time lows are especially scary. I always keep a juice box of apple juice on my night stand. Very handy and always there for me. I have found that it it is faster than glucose tablets, especially at night time.

I think your ideas are excellent, and I am very grateful for your sharing. I have benefited enormously from them.

Submitted by ilan (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

Your writing style is engaging and easy to follow.

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