Hypoglycemia: Care Instructions

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Overview

Hypoglycemia means that your blood sugar is low and your body is not getting enough fuel. Some people get low blood sugar from not eating often enough. Some medicines to treat diabetes can cause low blood sugar. People who have had surgery on their stomachs or intestines may get hypoglycemia. Problems with the pancreas, kidneys, or liver also can cause low blood sugar.

A snack or drink with sugar in it will raise your blood sugar and should ease your symptoms right away.

Your doctor may recommend that you change or stop your medicines until you can get your blood sugar levels under control. In the long run, you may need to change your diet and eating habits so that you get enough fuel for your body throughout the day.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Learn your signs of low blood sugar. They are different for everyone. Some common early signs include:
    • Nausea.
    • Hunger.
    • Feeling nervous, irritable, or shaky.
    • Cold, clammy skin.
    • Sweating (when you're not exercising).
  • Use the "rule of 15" to treat low blood sugar. This includes eating 15 grams of carbohydrate from a quick-sugar food, such as 3 or 4 glucose tablets or ½ cup of juice. Wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar. If it is still below 70 mg/dL, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrate. Repeat this every 15 minutes until your blood sugar is in a safe target range.
  • Once your blood sugar is in a safe range, eat a snack or meal to prevent recurrent low blood sugar.
  • Make sure family, friends, and coworkers know the symptoms of low blood sugar and know how to get your sugar level up.
  • If you were prescribed a glucagon kit, always have it with you. Make sure friends and family know how to use it.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your blood sugar is very high or very low.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your blood sugar stays outside the level your doctor set for you.
  • You have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.