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Low blood glucose (Hypoglycemia)

If you take diabetes pills or inject insulin, it is possible for your blood glucose level to get too low. You do not need to worry about low blood glucose levels if you are treating your diabetes with a food plan and exercise alone.

You need to treat for low blood glucose any time your blood glucose level is below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/l). If you have symptoms of low blood glucose and your blood glucose is either below 80 mg/dL (4.4 mmol/l) or below your target range, you also should treat for low blood glucose. Early symptoms of low blood glucose are:

  • paleness
  • feeling shaky and weak
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • fast heartbeat
  • hunger
  • tingling or numb lips

These symptoms are a signal to you that your brain and nervous system are not getting enough glucose. If untreated, you might have a hard time walking or speaking, or you may get confused.

Know the symptoms of low blood glucose and be prepared to treat them. If you feel any of the symptoms, test your blood. Any time your blood glucose level is below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/l), eat or drink something that contains 15 grams of carbohydrate (see list below). Liquid or soft foods are the best choices.

Foods and beverages for treating low blood glucose

  • 3 glucose tablets
  • 1/2 cup of fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup regular soft drink (not diet)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 6-7 hard candies
  • 6 small sugar cubes
  • 8-10 jelly beans
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 small tube of cake frosting

It's easy to overtreat low blood glucose. You may be feeling anxious and your body may be telling you to eat. However, if you eat too much, your blood glucose levels can get too high. The best thing to do when you feel symptoms of low blood glucose is to eat the suggested serving of food and wait for it to take effect. This takes about ten to fifteen minutes. Then test your blood again.

If your second test is above 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/l) and you feel better, you can go about what you were doing. If your test is still below 70 mg/dL, eat another carbohydrate food. After fifteen minutes, test again. If you still have low blood glucose after three tests, call your physician.

Guidelines for preventing low blood glucose

  • Test your blood glucose level routinely.
  • Follow your prescribed food plan.
  • Do not delay meals or snacks.
  • If you take insulin, measure it carefully and take the correct amounts.
  • Take other medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Plan for exercise.
  • Eat food when you drink wine, beer or liquor.
  • Test your blood glucose level before driving.


What are the symptoms?

What are the types of diabetes?

Who is at risk for diabetes?

How is diabetes diagnosed?

What is the treatment for diabetes?

What to expect if you are diagnosed

Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes?

Low blood glucose

Printable document including all information above

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