Recognizing and Treating Hypoglycemia - dummies

Recognizing and Treating Hypoglycemia

By Alan L. Rubin

Part of Type 1 Diabetes For Dummies Cheat Sheet

There are many possible causes for hypoglycemia, but it all really comes down to too much insulin (from an external source) and too little glucose in the blood. Even if there’s plenty of glucose inside the cells that require insulin, a problem still exists because the brain gets its glucose passively when the glucose in the blood is higher than the glucose in brain cells.

If insulin has driven most of the blood glucose into cells that dont receive glucose passively, hypoglycemia is present as far as the brain is concerned. And that means that the child becomes confused, sleepy, and even comatose.

Some symptoms of hypoglycemia are

  • Whiteness or pallor of the skin

  • Sweating

  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations (the sensation that the heart is beating too fast)

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Numbness in the lips, fingers, and toes

  • Sensation of hunger

  • Headache

  • Loss of concentration

  • Vision disorders, like double or blurred vision

  • Poor color vision

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty hearing

  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating

  • Feeling of warmth

  • Slurred speech

  • Dizziness

  • Convulsions

  • Reduced consciousness or coma

Mild hypoglycemia is marked by a blood glucose of about 75 mg/dl, moderate hypoglycemia by a blood glucose of about 65 mg/dl, and severe hypoglycemia by a blood glucose of less than 55 mg/dl. You can prevent many episodes of hypoglycemia by constantly staying aware of your child’s blood glucose and keeping him on a regular schedule; you can adjust his insulin if he’s mildly hypoglycemic. Other tips for treating hypoglycemia include the following:

  • Giving your child glucose tablets, which contain 4 mg of glucose. Two to four tablets is enough for moderate hypoglycemia in most children. If your child has trouble swallowing, give him honey instead of glucose tablets.

  • Giving your child 1-1/2 cups of orange juice. It effectively raises the blood glucose back to the normal range of 90 to 100 mg/dl.

  • Keeping the child quiet and inactive for 15 to 30 minutes after the reaction.

  • Checking the blood glucose 20 minutes after treating the hypoglycemia and giving another treatment if the level remains below 100 mg/dl.

  • Using a prescription glucagon emergency shot for an unconscious child who has severe hypoglycemia. Just make sure that the glucagon hasn’t expired. If the child doesn’t wake up in 10 to 15 minutes even though his blood glucose is normal, call 911.