Diabetes Forecast

2012 Products for Treating Lows

By Erika Gebel, PhD
Consumer Guide Listings

If you use insulin or certain oral medications such as glimepiride (Amaryl) or glipizide (Glucotrol), you probably know hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). The shaky, disruptive sensation is unpleasant at best and can be dangerous. If you experience the symptoms of a low, check your blood glucose or, if you can't check right away, start treatment with a source of glucose that will act quickly.

It's best to work with your health care team to come up with a game plan for treating lows. Many experts recommend the "rule of 15": Consume 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrate, wait 15 minutes, and test. If your blood glucose is still below 70 mg/dl, take 15 grams more, wait, and test again. Repeat as necessary until your level is back above 70.

This section is about products designed specifically for treating lows. Here are questions to consider to help you decide how best to treat a low.

What's the difference between glucose products for treating lows and candy, soda, or juice?
Products specifically designed to treat hypoglycemia get all their calories from glucose, which can quickly be absorbed by the body to increase blood glucose. Regular foods and beverages contain a variety of sugars, fats, and proteins, which may slow absorption of glucose. Another difference is that glucose products are sized to easily provide the recommended 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrate. It may be harder to know how many hard candies or how much of a carton of juice is a 15-gram dose. Using glucose products instead of other foods may help prevent taking in more calories than are needed to bring blood glucose back to a safe range.

What's the difference between tablets, gels, liquids, and bits?
Tablets are the classic glucose form, quarter-sized disks that come in a variety of flavors. Gels are flavored goo that can be squeezed out of tubes or packets directly into your mouth. Flavored glucose liquids are swallowed straight from a small bottle. Bits are like mini tablets, which may help fine-tune how much glucose you consume.

How many grams of carbohydrate are in one tablet or gel pack?
Some gels and liquids are made so that one package is equal to a 15-gram hit of glucose. Other gels come in larger containers and can be doled out as necessary. Tablets are a standard 4 grams each, while bits are just 1 gram each.

Will the product be easy to open and swallow while I'm having a low?
You may find some products easier to take than others when experiencing hypoglycemia. Gels and liquids don't require chewing, for example. Gel packets are simply torn open and drained.

One safety note to share with family and friends: If you lose the ability to treat yourself while having a low, you should not be given glucose products or anything else by mouth. If you are prone to severe lows, you should talk to your doctor about getting a glucagon kit. Glucagon is a hormone that can be injected into you by another person to quickly treat severe lows. It should only be given to someone who is unconscious or having a seizure.



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