Diabetes Forecast

Products for Treating Lows

By Erika Gebel, PhD ,

Dizziness, shakiness, confusion: These are some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), which is unpleasant at best—and dire at worst. Hypoglycemia can cause falls and car accidents and, left unchecked, it may lead to severe complications, including coma and death.

This is why at the first sign of hypoglycemia, it's crucial to check blood glucose and, if it's less than 70 mg/dl, correct it by consuming a fast-acting carbohydrate. If you're not prepared to check right away, treat your symptoms like hypoglycemia until you can test for a low.

While some people carry candies to treat their lows, this has its drawbacks. For starters, with something like a chunk of candy bar, it may be difficult to gauge just how much sugar you are consuming and how long it will take to kick in. Such imprecision may make it difficult to treat a low rapidly and reliably. Plus, having a purse full of sweets may weaken your resolve not to snack, sabotaging healthy eating.

For these reasons, you may find it helpful to stock up on over-the-counter glucose products designed specifically to treat hypoglycemia quickly, conveniently, and consistently. Keep them anywhere and everywhere, so that when a low hits, you are ready. (Another option is kids' juice boxes, which don't need refrigeration, are easy to carry, and have nutrition facts to tell you just how many carbohydrates they contain. A nondiet soda can also work.)

To treat low blood glucose, experts recommend eating or drinking 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates, waiting 15 minutes, testing blood glucose, and then, if your blood glucose remains below 70 mg/dl, eating another 15 grams. Continue testing and treating every 15 minutes until your blood glucose is above 70 mg/dl.

You should talk with your doctor about whether you need to have a glucagon kit on hand for treating extreme lows. (It is available by prescription only.) Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood glucose. These injections can be administered by trained friends, family, or coworkers of a person who is too confused to eat or has lost consciousness (you should never try to feed an unconscious person food, tablets, or juice).

Over-the-counter glucose products come in three basic forms: tablets, liquids, and gels. Most of them are designed to provide around 15 grams of carbohydrates in a serving and come in a variety of flavors.

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