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First Aid: Hypoglycemia

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-02-19 (Rev. 2013-06-07) - First aid treatment for a person suffering from Hypoglycemia a temporary condition caused by low blood sugar levels. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Michael A. Morales.
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Quote: "The signs of hypoglycemia range from mild to severe and may include extreme hunger, headache, dilated pupils, sweating, shaking, coldness, clamminess, nausea, and dizziness."

Hypoglycemia is a temporary condition caused by unusually low blood sugar levels. Blood sugar, which is also called blood glucose, helps provide the body with energy.

Glucose comes from food and is stored by the body for use between meals. It is necessary for the body to function. Hypoglycemia is most common in people with diabetes, who cannot store and use glucose efficiently. As a result, it can drop to dangerously low levels between meals or due to medication use. The body begins to suffer from reduced functioning as an effect of the lack of glucose in the blood, and the person begins to feel ill.

Low blood sugar can happen for a few reasons. It is most common in people with diabetes who inject insulin as treatment. The glucose management of diabetics does not function normally, making them highly susceptible to this condition. Hypoglycemia is particularly common in diabetics who have been fasting, which is why doctors normally recommend that diabetics have small snacks throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels even.

The signs of hypoglycemia range from mild to severe and may include extreme hunger, headache, dilated pupils, sweating, shaking, coldness, clamminess, nausea, and dizziness. In very serious cases there may be vomiting, blurred vision, slurred speech, paralysis, seizures, and even coma.

It is important to recognize the symptoms as early as possible because hypoglycemia is very easy to treat if caught early enough.

The solution is to simply eat a food that is rich in sugar. Sugar that is combined with fat and protein, such as cake or cookies, is not advised because the protein and fat prevent the sugar from being absorbed quickly.

If a friend or family member notices these symptoms, they should insist that the victim drink a cup of soda or juice. This helps restore the balance of blood glucose in the system and functioning returns to normal rather quickly.

The victim needs to be alert and oriented enough to swallow. If the victim is unconscious or has a decreased level of consciousness, then call for an ambulance.

Failure to treat Hypoglycemia can result in very serious consequences. That is why the symptoms of hypoglycemia should never be ignored. Severe hypoglycemia that is not treated can result in diabetic coma, particularly if the drop in blood sugar was fast and severe.

Diabetic coma is a state of unconsciousness caused by low blood sugar. Up to 15% of diabetics will experience a diabetic coma at least once in their lifetime.

A person in a diabetic coma is not able to reverse the symptoms by eating anything because they are unconscious. In these instances, they can be treated with glucagon shots.

Family members and friends of diabetics at risk for hypoglycemia are often trained in how to treat a hypoglycemic reaction by administering these injections.

Once treated, consciousness will return, although a follow-up visit to a doctor or emergency room is encouraged any time this happens. A diabetic coma is very serious and if not treated properly may result in brain damage or even death.

Reference: Michael Morales is an EMT-Paramedic and program director for Vital Ethics, providing basic and advanced life support training and certification programs to health care professionals -

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, emergency treatment or formal first-aid training. Do NOT use this information to diagnose or develop a treatment plan for a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider. If you're in a life-threatening or emergency medical situation, seek medical assistance immediately.

Information from our First Aid: Emergency Medical Treatments section - (Full List).

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