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Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood glucose, is when your blood glucose levels have fallen too low. This is usually less than 70 mg/dl. However, talk to your doctor about your own blood glucose targets, and what level is too low for you.

When can it happen?

Low blood glucose can happen if you’ve skipped a meal or snack, eaten less than usual, or been more physically active than usual. If you don’t take steps to bring glucose levels back to normal, you could even pass out.

What are the symptoms?

Each person’s reaction to hypoglycaemia is different. It’s important that you learn your own signs and symptoms when your blood glucose is low.

Signs and symptoms of low blood glucose begin quickly and include:

  • Shakiness

Nervousness or anxiety
  • Sweating, chills and clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Confusion, including delirium
  • Rapid/fast heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Hunger and nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Tingling/numbness in the lips or tongue
  • Headaches
Weakness or fatigue
  • Sweating, chills and clamminess
  • Anger, stubbornness, or sadness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nightmares or crying out during sleep
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

What should you do?

If you think you have hypoglycaemia, check your blood glucose. If you’re reading is 70 mg/dl or below, have 15 grams of carbohydrate to raise your blood glucose.

This may be:

glucose tablets (see instructions)

  • Gel tube (see instructions)
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice or regular soda (not diet)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or corn syrup
  • 8 ounces of non-fat or 1% milk
  • Hard candies, jellybeans, or gumdrops

After 15 minutes, check your blood glucose again. If it’s still below 70 mg/dl, have another serving. Repeat these steps until your blood glucose is at least 70 mg/dl. Make a note in your log book about any episodes of low blood glucose and talk with your health care team about why it happened. They can suggest ways to avoid low blood glucose in the future.

Severe hypoglycaemia

If left untreated, hypoglycaemia may lead to a seizures, unconsciousness (passing out) or coma. In this case, someone else must take over. The people you are in frequent contact with (for example, friends, family members, and co-workers) should be instructed on how to manage severe hypoglycaemic events in an emergency at home.