It’s important that Canadians living with diabetes be able to properly recognize, prevent and treat the many signs and symptoms of hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episodes, as they are at higher risk for the condition than others. Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar falls below average levels, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. It’s safer for those with diabetes to prevent hypoglycemia rather than treat the condition after an episode has begun – making it critical for higher-risk individuals to be aware of the symptoms, causes and treatments.
Hypoglycemia may occur for various reasons: when less food is eaten, meals are later than planned or missed, intense physical activities have taken place, when more than the regular amount of medication has been taken, or when alcohol has been recently consumed. Signs and symptoms can range from sweating, nausea, palpitations and anxiety, to drowsiness, difficulty speaking, changes in vision, and loss of consciousness.
People at risk of hypoglycemic episodes can take fast-acting sugars, such as 15 g of glucose tablets, 15 mL of honey, or sugar dissolved in water, 150 mL of juice or regular soft drinks, and smaller amounts of candy. Starches, such as crackers or bread, as well as protein sources, including cheese and peanut butter, are also effective at correcting low blood sugar. People at risk of developing hypoglycemia should carry a source of fast-acting sugar at all times. Once you have treated a hypoglycemic episode, it’s recommended that you wait at least 40 minutes before operating a vehicle.
For more information about recognizing and treating low blood sugar, check out our informative infographic below.