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Hypoglycemia means that your blood sugar is low and your body (especially your brain) is not getting enough fuel. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar can go too low if you take too much of some diabetes medicines. It can also go too low if you miss a meal. And it can happen if you exercise too hard without eating enough food. Some medicines used to treat other health problems can cause low blood sugar too.
Symptoms of low blood sugar can start quickly. It may take just 10 to 15 minutes. If you have had diabetes for many years, you may not realize that your blood sugar is low until it drops very low.
If you had a low blood sugar level during the night, you may wake up tired or with a headache. Or you may sweat so much during the night that your pyjamas or sheets are damp when you wake up.
You can treat low blood sugar by eating or drinking something that has 15 grams of carbohydrate. These should be quick-sugar foods. Check your blood sugar level again 15 minutes after having a quick-sugar food to make sure your level is getting back to your target range.
Children usually need less than 15 grams of carbohydrate. Check with your doctor or diabetes educator for the amount that is right for your child.
Here are examples of quick-sugar foods that have 15 grams of carbohydrate:
If you have problems with severe low blood sugar, or are unable to swallow, someone else may have to give you a shot of glucagon. This is a hormone that raises blood sugar levels quickly.
You can take steps to prevent low blood sugar.
Since low blood sugar levels can quickly become an emergency, be sure to wear medical alert jewellery, such as a medical alert bracelet. This is to let people know you have diabetes so they can get help for you. And make sure your family, friends, and co-workers know the symptoms of low blood sugar. Teach them what to do to get your sugar level up.
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 or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.
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Adaptation Date: 3/2/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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