Did you know that most people with diabetes over-treat an episode of low blood sugar?

The American Diabetes Association has facts and recommendations to prevent this and for effectively treating low blood sugar.


Hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar levels have fallen low enough that you need to take action to bring them back to your target range. This is usually when your blood sugar is less than 70 mg/dL.

Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar

Each person’s reaction to low blood sugar is different. Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar include:

• feeling shaky or anxious

• sweating, chills and clamminess

• irritability or impatience

• confusion

• fast heartbeat

• feeling lightheaded or dizzy

• hunger

• nausea

• color draining from the skin (pallor)

• feeling sleepy

• feeling weak or having no energy

• blurred/impaired vision

• tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks

• headaches

• coordination problems, clumsiness

• nightmares or crying out during sleep

• seizures

If you are experiencing symptoms and are unable to check your blood sugar immediately, treat the hypoglycemia.

Treatment (The “15-15 Rule”)

Have 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar and check it after 15 minutes. If it’s still below 70 mg/dL, have another serving.

Repeat these steps until your blood sugar is at least 70 mg/dL. Once your blood sugar is back to normal, eat a meal or snack to make sure it doesn’t lower again.

These all offer carbohydrates:

• glucose tablets or glucose gel

• 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice or regular soda (not diet)

• 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or corn syrup

Many patients tend to over-treat hypoglycemia. This can cause blood sugar levels to shoot way up.

Using the step-wise approach of the “15-15 Rule” can help you avoid this, preventing high blood sugar levels.

Kathy Hanneman is a registered dietitian at CHI St. Francis Health

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