Treating Hypoglycemia: How To Use The Sugar At Hand

Adapted with permission from The Diabetic’s Book: All Your questions Answered by June Biermann and Barbara Toohey.

Jan 1, 1995

What do I do for an insulin reaction?

You eat or drink something sweet that will bring your blood sugar up fast. (This always confuses non-diabetics, who are convinced that people with diabetes can never have anything sugary and resist giving them what they need.) Most lists of what to eat for an insulin reaction have been the same for years, and still are. They include a half glass of orange juice, 3 sugar cubes, 4 or 5 Life Savers, a half cup of Coke or Pepsi, two tablespoons of raisins, etc. We've never understood how anyone could conceive of some of these items as handy to carry in your purse or pocket at all times.

What you need in a low-blood-sugar emergency-and it should be treated as an emergency-is something quick and easy, good tasting, and predictable. That's why we favor glucose tablets. Some of the more convenient ones are imported: DextroEnergy (from England). From the United States you have Becton-Dickinson (B-D) Glucose Tablets, Instant Glucose Tablets from the Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland, and Can-Am Care's Dex4's. All of these glucose tablets come in different flavors except B-D's and Instant Glucose. A DextroEnergy or Dex4 tablet will raise the blood sugar of a person weighing 120-150 pounds by approximately 15 milligrams per deciliter. The best way for you to find out exactly how much each of these tablets will raise your blood sugar is to test them on yourself. (Wait until your blood sugar is 100 or below; then eat one and retest in fifteen minutes.) If you know how many to eat for an insulin reaction, you won't make the classic mistake of overcompensating and sending yourself from 50 to 250. (This is called anxiety eating, and that term describes the phenomenon perfectly.)

If you get to the point where you are too far gone to chew, but are conscious and able to swallow, the suggested treatment is one of the gels that can be squeezed into the mouth for easy swallowing. These are Glutose (in a plastic container), Instant Glucose gel (in a plastic tube), and Monojel (in a foil-wrapped pouch). A less expensive way to go is to pick up a few tubes of cake decorating icing in any supermarket.

Our final word: If you take insulin, live like a Boy Scout. Be prepared.

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Hypoglycemia Unawareness, Insulin, Low Blood Sugar

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