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Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar

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Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Glucose: Learn how to prevent it and what to do if you are having a low.

By Nina Nazor

What is hypoglycemia?

When your blood glucose drops below 70 mg/dL, it is called low blood glucose levels or hypoglycemia. Low blood glucose can happen very quickly, specially is you use insulin or certain diabetes pills, so it is important that you learn how to prevent it and take care of it.

How do you know you are having a low?

Hypoglycemia can happen in three different stages, First, you may feel just hungry and weak, sleepy and a little strange. If you don´t raise your blood glucose levels in that moment, you may start feeling:

• Shaky, light-headed, with a headache
• Anxious, upset or angry
• Confused, feeling like you don´t know what's happening
• Your heart rate is faster and you might feel your heart pounding
• Sweaty, with cold sweat
• Weak, like you could faint any minute
• With numbness in your tongue or lips and you may have difficulty to speak
• Some people start saying strange things or may start crying without apparent reason.

Finally, if your blood glucose levels keep dropping, you might lose consciousness, have seizures and fall into a coma. That's the very dangerous side of the low. A person can die in a matter of minutes is blood glucose drops too much, because the brain depends on glucose for functioning, and without this fuel the nervous system cannot work and declares a general state of emergency that can lead to death.

What causes hypoglycemia?

The most common causes are the following:

• More physical activity than usual
• Not eating on time
• Eating less than you should have
• Taking too much medication
• The effects of drinking alcohol

What should you do if you have hypoglycemia?

If you lose consciousness or have a seizure, you will need help from another person. Your best friends, teachers and family members must know what to do to help you. You should also make sure you always wear your medical identification.

When you start feeling the symptoms of a low, you should eat or drink the following sources of glucose and then check your blood glucose levels.

•  15 g of glucose in the form of glucose tablets or glucose gel
•  15 ml (3 teaspoons) or 3 packets of table sugar dissolved in water
•  175 ml (3/4 cup) of juice or regular soft drink (with sugar)or
•  6 Life Savers (1=2.5 g of carbohydrate)
•  15 ml (1 tablespoon) of honey

If after 15 minutes the symptoms don't go away and your levels of blood glucose are still below 70 mg/dL, then call 911.

If you lose consciousness what should the people around you do?

First, they can put some glucose gel or honey in your gums, so the glucose can be absorbed that way because you can´t drink, and right after that, if they have a glucagon kit, give you a shot and/or call 911.

However, if you learn how to detect the symptoms of a low on time, you will always be able to stop it in advance.

There are three recommendations you should keep in mind:

•  Always carry candies, glucose tablets or glucose gel with you,
•  Always wear your medical identification. You can even have your data tattooed if your doctor approves it.
•  Teach your friends and family what to do to help you in case of a low.

Keep on!