Preventing hypoglycaemia 

If you have diabetes, sticking to your medication plan and eating regular meals can help prevent hypoglycaemia.

It's also important to monitor your blood glucose levels.

Monitoring blood glucose

Regularly monitoring your blood glucose levels can help you keep your blood glucose as normal and stable as possible, and will help you spot the signs and symptoms of hypoglycaemia quickly.

Your blood glucose level can vary throughout the day, so you may need to check it several times a day, depending on the treatment you're taking.

You can monitor your blood glucose levels using a blood glucose meter, a small device that measures the concentration of glucose in your blood.

Read more about living with type 1 diabetes and living with type 2 diabetes.

Food and alcohol

If you have diabetes, strenuous physical activity can lead to hypoglycaemia. Eating extra carbohydrate-based foods before and during exercise can help reduce the chances of this happening.

If you're taking insulin, your doctor may advise you to lower your dose before you do strenuous physical activity.

Alcohol can also affect your body's ability to release glucose. If you have type 1 diabetes, it's recommended that you drink no more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day and eat a snack after drinking alcohol.

Spotting the signs

As hypoglycaemia can develop suddenly, it's important to be aware of the symptoms of hypoglycaemia so you can treat it quickly. Tell your family and friends about the signs to look out for and let them know how to treat it.

People with diabetes are advised to carry a form of identification with them that states their condition so they can be helped quickly and efficiently.

Keep treatment with you

If you're at risk of hypoglycaemia, you should carry sugary food and drink with you at all times to treat mild cases as soon as possible.

If you have diabetes, particularly type 1 diabetes, your doctor may recommend medications such as glucose gel to carry with you. This can be used to treat hypoglycaemia that doesn't respond to normal treatment.

If you're being treated with insulin, you'll usually be given a kit that contains an injection of a medication called glucagon. Family members or your carer can be trained to carry out the injection, which should be used if you lose consciousness because of severe hypoglycaemia.

Preventing hypoglycaemia at night

It's important to avoid recurrent hypoglycaemia during the night (nocturnal hypoglycaemia) as it can reduce the early symptoms of daytime episodes.

If you experience nocturnal hypoglycaemia, you can try:

  • keeping something sugary by your bedside
  • having a snack before bedtime, such as biscuits and milk
  • checking your blood glucose levels between 3am and 4am, when hypoglycaemia is most likely to occur

Hypoglycaemia and driving

As hypoglycaemia can cause confusion, drowsiness, or even unconsciousness, this can present a significant risk to you or other road users.

If you have diabetes that requires treatment with insulin, you must:

  • inform the DVLA and your insurance company
  • test your blood sugar before driving and at regular intervals (at least every two hours) while driving
  • avoid driving if your blood glucose is low
  • avoid driving for 45 minutes after treating hypoglycaemia
  • carry rapid-acting carbohydrates with you in the vehicle at all times

If you experience hypoglycaemia while driving, pull over and stop as soon as it's safe to do so. Remove the keys from the ignition and get out of the driver's seat before treating hypoglycaemia in the normal way.

If you have two or more episodes of hypoglycaemia that require assistance in a 12-month period, it's a legal requirement to stop driving and inform the DVLA.

If you're a group two driver (you hold a licence to drive buses, coaches or lorries), you're legally required to stop driving group two vehicles immediately and inform the DVLA if you have a single episode of hypoglycaemia that requires assistance.

Inform your diabetes care team if you start having problems recognising hypoglycaemia or you start to have more regular episodes, even if there were warning symptoms and you were able to treat them without assistance.

See the GOV.UK website for more information about hypoglycaemia and driving.

Page last reviewed: 21/05/2015

Next review due: 21/05/2017