How to Treat Low Blood Sugar Quickly and Safely

All You Need to Know about Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

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Have you ever felt shaky, sweaty, confused, or disorientated and then ate something and felt better? Perhaps your blood sugar was low, but you wouldn't know that for sure unless you checked. If you have had diabetes for a long time, you may feel as though you have your signs and symptoms down pat. But when possible, you should confirm with a blood sugar check. Whenever you "feel funny," especially if you've been woken up by it or if it occurs before heading to bed, check your sugar.

The American Diabetes Association defines a low blood sugar as anything less than 70mg/dL. 

The Importance of Prevention:

Low blood sugars can be dangerous and feel unpleasant. Frequent bouts of low blood sugars can also result in consumption of excess calories which can lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss. The good news is that, if caught early and treated promptly, you can bring blood sugar up without harm. On the other hand, severely low blood sugar, which happens rarely in people with Type 2 diabetes, can be very dangerous and cause mental confusion, antagonistic behaviors, unconsciousness, or seizures.  For those persons who may not recognize low blood sugars, referred to as hypoglycemia unawareness, prevention is especially important. If you are experiencing low blood sugars several times a week you should discuss this with your doctor or diabetes educator.

Why Would My Blood Sugar Go Low? 

You can experience low blood sugars if you skip or delay a meal, take too much diabetes medicine, or exercise for an extended period of time. Blood sugars can also drop if you've recently lost weight and have not had your medications adjusted. 

Prevent Low Blood Sugar by Being Prepared: 

When you're out and about, it can be difficult to adhere to an eating schedule.

If you have to skip or delay a meal, make sure you have snacks with you. Fruit, trail mix, nuts and protein bars are fairly easy to transport whenever you are on the go. 

How Do I Treat a Low Blood Sugar?

Treat a low blood sugar with a fast acting carbohydrate - something that will raise blood sugar rapidly. Avoid foods like cookies and chocolate. Although these foods do contain sugar, they also contain fat and protein, which can slow down the rate at which blood sugars rise. Instead, treat with 15 g of juice, hard candies, glucose tablets or glucose gel. And avoid over treating a low blood sugar. Having a low blood sugar can feel pretty lousy. Your first reaction maybe to eat or drink as much as you can as fast as you can. Over treating your blood sugars can lead to blood sugar spikes and weight gain. Instead, use the rule of 15. 

The Rule of 15: 

If your blood sugar is less than 70mg/dl, consume 15-20 grams of simple carbohydrates: 

  • 4 oz of juice or soda (not diet)
  • 3-4 glucose tablets
  • 1 tube of glucose gel
  • 5-6 hard candies (read label to determine a 15 g portion)
  • 2 tablespoons raisins 
  • 8 oz skim milk 

Wait 15 minutes and recheck your blood sugar. If you blood sugar has not risen above 70mg/dl, you should repeat treatment. Once your sugar returns to normal you may need to eat a small snack if you are not planning to eat a meal soon. Your snack should contain fiber and protein so that your blood sugar does not drop again. For more information on snacking:​


American Diabetes Association: Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose): Accessed on-line, March 22, 2014:

Joslin Diabetes Center. Is Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia) Dangerous? Accessed on-line, March 22, 2014:

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