Diabetes Forecast

2011 Products for Treating Lows

Blood glucose that goes too low, a condition called hypoglycemia, can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effect of diabetes medications, particularly insulin and sulfonylureas. Fortunately, hypoglycemia can be treated if you have a source of fast-acting glucose close at hand.

By Erika Gebel, PhD , ,

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include dizziness, shakiness, confusion, sweating, and hunger. If you think you are having a low, check your blood glucose right away; if it's below 70 mg/dl, you should begin to treat it. If you suspect hypoglycemia but can't check your blood glucose, treat the symptoms anyway.

Experts recommend following an approach to treating hypoglycemia that's known as the "rule of 15": Eat or drink 15 grams of fast-acting glucose, then wait 15 minutes before checking your blood glucose again. If your level is still below 70 mg/dl, eat another 15 grams. Repeat this process every 15 minutes until your blood glucose level gets up above 70 mg/dl.

Not everyone uses specialized glucose products for treating lows, but the alternatives can have drawbacks. For example, candy also packs a sugar punch, but it can be difficult to gauge how much glucose you've consumed with candy. Plus, if there is any fat in the candy, glucose absorption may be slowed. And, of course, having tempting stashes of sweets can lead to unwanted snacking. Better alternatives are juice boxes and nondiet soda.

Over-the-counter glucose products are designed to treat lows and make it easy to dole out 15 grams of carbohydrates at a time. They come in a variety of flavors and three basic types: gels, tablets, and liquids.

Some people with diabetes may be susceptible to hypoglycemia that is so severe that self-treatment becomes impossible due to confusion or unconsciousness. An unconscious person should never be given food, juice, or tablets. For people prone to severe lows, a doctor may write a prescription for a glucagon kit. Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood glucose and
can be injected by trained friends, family, or coworkers in an emergency.

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