Ever been working out in the yard and suddenly got sweaty? Or skipped a meal and felt shaky? Maybe you were out having drinks with friends and suddenly became dizzy?
If so, you may have experienced a hypoglycemic episode.
The target range for blood sugar before a meal is 80-130 mg/dL. However, hypoglycemia that requires treatment is when your blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL. If your blood sugar is between 70-80 mg/dL, it does not usually require treatment unless you are feeling symptoms of low blood sugar.
Low blood sugar makes you feel pretty bad and may even be scary. But the good news is, once you identify the causes, you can do some things to prevent it.
What Causes Hypoglycemia?
- Delayed or missed meals
- Medication type, dose, or timing
- Too much or unusual amount of exercise
- Drinking alcohol
Signs and Symptoms
- Increased hunger
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Mental fogginess or lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
When hypoglycemia happens and your blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL, address it quickly with the following steps.
- Eat 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate (sugar).
- Wait 15 minutes, then recheck your blood sugar level. If you’re still hypoglycemic, repeat this treatment and recheck your blood sugar after another 15 minutes.
- When your blood sugar is back within target range (80 mg/dL or above), eat a small snack or meal to keep it there.
- Examples of foods with 15 grams of fast-acting carbs include:
- ½ cup (4oz) juice
- 6–7 hard candies
- Glucose gel tube (follow instructions)
- 3-4 glucose tablets
- 1 small box of raisins
- 1 Tbsp sugar, honey, maple syrup
- 4 ounces of regular soda
Important: if your symptoms are severe and you are unable to swallow, have a coworker, neighbor, or family member call 911 and give you glucagon if it's available.
Tip: foods with a fast-acting sugar will make your blood sugar rise quickly. While it’s tempting to eat chocolate or candy bars, don’t. They contain fat, which delays getting your blood sugar level back up fast.
To avoid hypoglycemia, be aware of the following:
Your Diabetes Medications
- Some diabetes meds can cause hypoglycemia. Ask your doctor to explain what exactly each of your medications does and if any might put you at risk for hypoglycemia.
- Always take your diabetes meds in the prescribed dose at the recommended times.
- If you just started a new medication and think it may be causing hypoglycemia, call your doctor.
- Avoid skipping meals.
- Eat on a regular schedule.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand for the times you may have to wait longer to eat.
- Keep fast-acting sugar handy, such as hard candy, in case you experience hypoglycemia.
- Check your blood sugar before, after, and sometimes during physical activity. If your level is less than 100 mg/dL, have a snack of fast-acting carbs.
- Adjust your medication as needed before exercise. Ask your doctor how.
- Have a meal or snack during and after drinking.
- Check your blood sugar before, during, and after drinking.
- Drink in moderation (up to 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men).
Important: if you have two blood sugar readings below 70 mg/dL in 1 week, tell your doctor. You may need to make changes to your diabetes management plan.
Hypoglycemia affects people very differently at different levels. It’s important to understand what your symptoms are when you’re low, so you can pinpoint hypoglycemia quickly and treat it as soon as possible.