Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) - Treatment 

Treating hypoglycaemia 

In most cases, hypoglycaemia can be self-treated when you recognise the symptoms.

Treating an episode of hypoglycaemia

The immediate treatment for hypoglycaemia is to have some sugary food or drink (about 15g of rapidly acting carbohydrate) to end the attack.

For example, try:

  • a glass of fruit juice or non-diet soft drink
  • between three and five dextrose tablets
  • a handful of sweets

At first you should avoid fatty foods and drinks such as chocolate and milk, because they don't usually contain as much sugar and may cause the sugar to be absorbed more slowly.

After having something sugary, you should have a longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar, a piece of fruit or a sandwich.

It will usually take 10-15 minutes to recover from mild episodes of hypoglycaemia. If you have a blood glucose meter, you should measure your blood sugar again and if it is still too low (below 4 mmol) you should have some more sugary food or a drink and test your levels again in another 10-15 minutes.

If normal treatment is not effective, you may be able to help the person by applying glucose gel (or honey, treacle or jam if this is not available) to the inside of their cheeks and gently massaging the outside of their cheeks. It may take 10-15 minutes before they feel better. This should not be done if the person is drowsy or unconscious because of the risk of choking.

If you have several episodes of hypoglycaemia a week, you should contact your diabetes care provider to find out the underlying cause. You may need your medication adjusted or there may be another condition causing hypoglycaemia that needs to be treated.

If a person is unconscious

If a person loses consciousness because of severe hypoglycaemia, they need to be put into the recovery position and should be given an injection of the hormone glucagon if they have an injection kit. This injection raises the blood glucose level.

The injection is best done by a friend or family member who knows what they are doing, or by a trained healthcare professional.

If a glucagon injection kit it not available or there is nobody available who is trained to give the injection, or if the injection is ineffective after 10 minutes, call 999 for an ambulance. Never try to put food or drink into the mouth of someone who is unconscious, as they could choke.

If you are able to give a glucagon injection and the person regains consciousness, they should eat some longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar or a sandwich. You should continue to monitor the person for signs of recurring symptoms in case they need to be treated again.

See hypoglycaemia medicines information for more about the medicines used to treat the condition.

Page last reviewed: 16/07/2013

Next review due: 16/07/2015

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Healthy living with diabetes

Diabetes can have serious health consequences, including heart disease and blindness. But with careful management you can reduce your risk