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A diagram showing hypoglycemia, normal levels, and hyperglycemia.

Hypoglycemia is when the body has a low level of blood glucose (blood sugar) of 70mg/dl or less. Glucose is the main way your body gets energy. This condition is common in people with diabetes, but can happen to a non-diabetic.

One or more of these symptoms may indicate low blood sugar.

  • Hungry
  • Irritable
  • Incoherent, spacey
  • Mood changes
  • Inattentive, drowsy, headache
  • Glassy eyes, dilated pupils
  • Sweaty, shaky, clammy, pale
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats

What to do if you have low blood sugar:

1. Eat 15 grams of glucose, such as 4 oz or 1⁄2 cup of 100% juice, 1 bite-sized candy bar, 1⁄2 cup of a non-diet soda, glucose tablets in 15 gm increments, a small apple or orange, or half a banana.

2. Wait 15 minutes and repeat blood sugar check.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until blood sugar is within the range of 70 to 100mg/dl.

Tips to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be as simple as changes to your diet and eating schedule.

  • Eat a balanced diet that is low in sugar and high in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.
  • It’s okay to eat good complex carbohydrates, such as a small sweet potato, a medium apple, 1 cup of blueberries, or whole grain oatmeal. Avoid eating processed, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cookies, chips, pastries, pizza, many breakfast cereals, and pasta.
  • Eat small meals every two hours to help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Test your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
  • Check your sugars before and after exercise, and discuss with your doctor what types of changes you can make.

If there’s a severe reaction, a seizure, or unconscious state, call 911. Do not give insulin.

Be sure family members or close friends are aware of what to do in the event of an emergency. Wearing a medical bracelet can provide critical information about a person’s health status

 


Peer ReviewSheree Taylor, Human Sciences Regional Extension Agent, Human Nutrition, Diet, and Health

New September 2021, Hypoglycemia, FCS-2552

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