Treating hypoglycaemia 

In most cases, you can treat hypoglycaemia yourself when you recognise the symptoms.

Treating an episode of hypoglycaemia

The immediate treatment for hypoglycaemia is to have some sugary food or drink (about 15 to 20g of rapidly acting carbohydrate) to end the attack.

For example, this could be:

  • 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 the sugar they do contain may 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 around 15 minutes to recover from a mild episode of hypoglycaemia. If you have a blood glucose meter, measure your blood sugar again after 15 to 20 minutes. If it's still too low (below 4mmol), you should have some more sugary food or a drink before testing your levels again in another 15 to 20 minutes.

When treating someone else with hypoglycaemia, if the above treatment isn't effective, you may be able to help them by applying glucose gel (or honey, treacle or jam if glucose gel isn't available) to the inside of their cheeks, and gently massaging the outside of their cheeks.

It may take 10 to 15 minutes before they feel better. This shouldn't 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 team to find out the underlying cause. Your medication may need to be 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 given an injection of the hormone glucagon (if they have an injection kit). The injection will raise their blood glucose level.

The injection should be carried out by a friend or family member who knows what they're doing, or by a trained healthcare professional.

You should dial 999 to request an ambulance if:

  • a glucagon injection kit isn't available
  • there's nobody available who's trained to give the injection
  • the injection is ineffective after 10 minutes

Never try to put food or drink into the mouth of someone who's unconscious as they could choke.

If you're 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.

Read more about the medicines used to treat hypoglycaemia.

Page last reviewed: 21/05/2015

Next review due: 21/05/2017