Managing hypoglycaemia

What is hypogycaemia?

For people with diabetes that are treated with insulin, hypoglycaemia (or "hypos") is when your blood glucose level falls below 4.0 mmol/L. Remember that 4 is the floor! Some people get symptoms with hypoglycaemia:

  • Tiredness/drowsiness
  • Change in skin tone - pale
  • Glazed eyes
  • Feeling faint/dizzy
  • Headache
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Mood change, quiet or Irritable
  • Loss of consciousness

What causes hypoglycaemia?

Hypos usually occur when there is too much insulin around for what the body needs. For example:

  • When you are unwell, especially with a vomiting illness
  • If you have had too much insulin with food (or you don't finish your food)
  • During or after exercise, as the muscles recharge their energy stores
  • Drinking alcohol

How do I treat hypoglycaemia?

For a blood glucose less than 4.0 mmol/L:

  1. Give 5-15 grams of quick acting glucose or sucrose:
    • 5 grams for children under 2 years of age
    • 10 grams for children between 2 and 5 years of age
    • 15 grams for those over 5 years of age
    Quick acting glucose/sucrose 5 grams 10 grams 15 grams
    Gluco-tabs 1 (4 grams) 3 4
    Dextro Energy tablets 2 3 5
    Lucozade energy 60ml 110ml 170ml
    Orange juice 50ml 100ml 150ml
    Cola (not diet) 50ml 100ml 150ml
    Jelly babies 1 2 3
  2. Retest Blood Glucose after 15 minutes:
    • If the blood glucose above 5.6mmol/L - no further action needed.
    • If blood glucose 5.5mmol/L or below repeat above cycle until blood glucose 5.6mmol/L above.
    • If you have had to repeat the treatment more than 2 times, OR your'e about to start some exercise OR it’s bedtime; a 10-15 gram carbohydrate snack is (e.g. medium slice of toast, 2 rich tea biscuits, 200ml milk).

If the hypo happens before a planned meal, treat the hypo as above, then give insulin for the meal only (i.e. no correction dose).

This guide is also available to download (see related files).