If you take insulin or a diabetes medication that increases insulin produced by the pancreas (such as glyburide, gliclazide or repaglinide), you may be at risk of severe hypoglycemia. Read on to learn some things your family and friends can do to help you manage severe low blood sugar.
Who should you tell about your risk of low blood sugars?
It’s important to tell the people that you spend time with if you are at risk of severe low blood sugar. These people include:
- Family members, including your husband or wife, and children who are old enough to understand the situation and react accordingly
- Boyfriend or girlfriend
- Close friends
- School teachers and nurses
What to share with family and friends?
The information that you share should include the following:
How to recognize signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. Symptoms of mild to moderate hypoglycemia include trembling, sweating, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and nausea. Symptoms of severe hypoglycemia include confusion and disorientation, convulsions or seizures and loss of consciousness.
How to check your blood sugar. Teach your trusted friends and family members how to check blood sugar using a blood glucose meter. Have them practice using the meter, so they’ll have some experience and confidence using it should the need arise.
How to administer glucagon. Glucagon is used to treat severe hypoglycemia, when a person with diabetes is unable to treat themselves. Glucagon is available in two forms:
- Nasal powder, which comes in a small tube that has a plunger on one end. The tube is gently inserted into a nostril and when the plunger is pressed, the dose of glucagon nasal powder is administered. The nasal powder is not inhaled or breathed in. It is absorbed through the nose.
- An injection kit that contains a vial of powdered glucagon and either another vial of sterile water or a syringe that is preloaded with sterile water. The glucagon is mixed with the sterile water, and then injected under the skin.
Tell your trusted family members and friends where you keep your glucagon in case of emergency, and show them how to administer it. If you have expired glucagon on hand, you can use it to practice – opening and mixing the injection components, or opening the powder tube – without actually administering it.
Your low blood sugar emergency plan. There are a number of steps you can take to prevent and manage a low blood sugar emergency:
- Check your blood sugar regularly
- Eat meals and snacks on time
- Carry a source of fast-acting carbohydrate, as well as glucagon, with you at all times
- Recognize and react quickly to hypoglycemia symptoms, and consume 15 grams of carbohydrate if needed to treat a low
- Make sure your family and friends know how to treat a severe low blood sugar with glucagon
Other things you can do to prevent and manage severe hypoglycemia
- Don’t get distracted between injecting insulin and having a meal
- Eat a form of carbohydrate, such as a slice of bread, if a meal is delayed
- Check your blood sugar before, during, and after exercising
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Test your blood glucose more regularly than normal if you are struggling to recognize when you are having a hypoglycemia episode
- Wear a medical identification bracelet, sports band or necklace; in the event that you lose consciousness during a severe episode of hypoglycemia, it will alert people to your condition
Where should glucagon be stored?
Glucagon should be kept in its original container, and not opened until it is needed. It should be stored at room temperature, not in the refrigerator or freezer. It should also be kept away from excess heat and moisture, so it should not be stored in the bathroom.
If you are at risk for severe hypoglycemia, you should carry glucagon with you at all times. At home, make sure it’s stored in a handy location, and that your family members know where it is. Away from home, carry it in your purse or backpack, and make sure that family members, friends, co-workers or school teachers know where to find it.
This article is sponsored by Eli Lilly Canada Inc. but independently created by Diabetes Care Community Inc.