Knowing how to manage hypoglycemia at home, especially for those at risk is essential as it is a medical emergency.
Almost half of the patients with diabetes develop hypoglycemia at night.
The other half may develop hypoglycemia during physical activity or exercise. If not treated timely, it can cause permanent brain damage.
Emergency treatment of hypoglycemia should be done at home before visiting a healthcare facility.
Glucose is the main fuel of the body meaning that our body basically runs on it. We get glucose mainly from food and it is essential for the normal functioning of the body. Our body has the tendency to keep a perfect balance internally.
Hypoglycemia is common in older individuals, those with kidney or liver disease, cancers, and more importantly in individuals with diabetes.
Diabetics who are on insulin and hypoglycemic drugs are at a greater risk than those who are only taking metformin, GLP-1 analogs (Semaglutide, Liraglutide, Dulaglutide), twincretins (Mounjaro), or SGLT2 inhibitors (Jardiance, Farxiga, Steglatro, and Invokana).
What Is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is low blood glucose. Our bodies maintain blood glucose in the range of 70 to 140 mg/dl.
When blood glucose falls below 70 mg/dl, individuals may develop symptoms of hypoglycemia such as a racing heart, sweating, vertigo, dizziness, and hunger.
Severe hypoglycemia develops when it is not corrected and the blood glucose falls to below 55 mg/dl. At this stage, the individuals may feel extreme weakness, and lethargy, and may become unconscious.
This is quite common in people with diabetes. This can occur due to a set of reasons including diet, exercise, or medicines.
What are the Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)?
Common symptoms of hypoglycemia are:
- Pale skin
Confusion, altered sensorium, and loss of consciousness occur in patients with severe hypoglycemia.
Emergency Treatment of Hypoglycemia at home:
Hypoglycemia or low blood glucose can be treated by ingesting foods that provide instant carbohydrates or sugar and increase blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar can be instantly raised by taking the following food items and medicines:
Glucose tablets for the emergency treatment of hypoglycemia:
As for people with diabetes, low blood sugar level is a common problem. In this case, glucose tablets are an efficient way of treating hypoglycemia.
These tablets have a chalky taste and they are very sweet. Their flavor mimics fake fruits.
These tablets are an oral treatment for low sugar levels. They work effectively to bring your blood sugar level back to its normal value.
Keeping these tablets in your pocket or nearby all the time can help with immediately treating hypoglycemia.
The American Diabetes Association recommends taking glucose tablets as the first line of treatment for hypoglycemia at home.
It is recommended to take four sugar tablets (equivalent to 16 gms of sugar) when the blood glucose falls to less than 70 mg/dl).
Although the rise in blood sugar is variable and dependent on many variables, 1 gm of glucose raises the blood glucose by about 5 mg/dl.
Hence 4 sugar tablets (16 gms) will raise the blood glucose by 80 mg/dl (from 60 to 140 mg/dl) (16gm x 5 = 80, 80 + 60 = 140).
Peanut butter for the treatment of hypoglycemia:
Overdosing on this one is definitely not recommended as it is pretty high in calories.
But since we need an immediate and effective source to treat hypoglycemia, we can totally rely on peanut butter.
This has a low glycemic index, meaning this won’t make your blood sugar level shoot instantly.
One tablespoon of peanut butter will raise the blood glucose by almost 15 mg/dl as each tablespoon contains 3 gms of carbohydrates.
Applesauce for the treatment of hypoglycemia:
Yes! Applesauce is good at raising your blood sugar level. So, if you feel any symptoms of hypoglycemia then grab a bottle of applesauce and take a spoonful of it.
Since our aim for the treatment of hypoglycemia is about 15 gms of carbohydrates.
15 grams of carbohydrates can be ingested if we take 3/4 of the cup of applesauce or 1/3rd cup of sweetened applesauce.
Fruits for the emergency treatment of Hypoglycemia at home:
Probably the most effective method to treat hypoglycemia is eating fruits. Fruits have a great variety and you can always choose to eat them at any time of the day.
Fruits that have a low glycemic index are suggested e.g., strawberries, cherries, apricots, grapefruits, etc. As fruits with a low glycemic index do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Fruits are also a great source of reducing the chances of type 2 diabetes, according to research. [Ref]
One gram of carbohydrates increases blood sugar by approximately 5 mg/dl. One should target at least 15 gms of carbohydrates when treating hypoglycemia.
The following table has been taken from the US Department of Agriculture. It shows the number of carbohydrates in a serving.
|Cranberries – dried, sweetened||0.25 cup||29.02 g|
|Cranberries, raw||1 cup, chopped||4.70 g|
|Blackberries||1 cup||7.03 g|
|Raspberries||1 cup||5.44 g|
|Raspberries, frozen, red, unsweetened||1 cup||9.16 g|
|Blackberries||1 cup||7.03 g|
|Strawberries, frozen, unsweetened||1 cup thawed||10.08 g|
|Strawberries, frozen, sweetened, sliced||1 cup||61.23 g|
|Strawberries||1 cup, halves||7.43 g|
|watermelon||1 cup||9.55 g|
|Figs, dried, uncooked||1 cup||71.40 g|
|Dried Apples||1 cup||33.97 g|
|Apples, granny smith with skin||1 cup, sliced||10.45 g|
|Apples, golden delicious, with skin||1 cup, sliced||10.94 g|
|Apples, gala, with skin||1 cup, sliced||11.30 g|
|Peaches, frozen, sweetened||1 cup||55.45 g|
|Peaches, dried||1 cup||43.83 g|
|Pears, Asian, raw||1||8.60 g|
|Papaya||1 cup of 1’ pieces||11.34 g|
|Pears, red Anjou||1 small||12.02 g|
|Pears, dried, sulfured, uncooked||1 cup, halves||111.96 g|
|Pears, Bartlett||1 cup, sliced||13.57 g|
|Cherries, sour, red||1 cup without pits||13.16 g|
|Melons, honeydew||1 cup, diced||13.80 g|
|Melons, cantaloupe||1 cup, balls||13.91 g|
|Oranges, navel||1 cup sections||14.03 g|
|Blueberries, dried, sweetened||0.25 cup||27 g|
|Blueberries, frozen, unsweetened||1 cup||13.10 g|
|Grapefruit||1 cup sections with juice||15.85 g|
|Pineapple||1 cup, chunks||16.25 g|
|Plums||1 cup, sliced||16.37 g|
|Mangoes||1 cup pieces||22.54 g|
|Grapes, red or green||1 cup||23.37 g|
|Raisins, golden seedless||1 cup packed||108.41 g|
|Bananas||1 cup, mashed||27.52 g|
|Dates, deglet noor||1 cup, chopped||93.12 g|
|Apricots, dried, sulfured, uncooked||1 cup, halves||69.47 g|
|Passion fruit||1 cup||26.43 g|
The table is taken from FoodData Central (usda.gov).
Juices for the emergency treatment of hypoglycemia:
While canned and processed juices are not a good option. You can still choose to go for healthy fruit juices.
Preferably, homemade juices of a single fruit or mixed fruits are a healthy choice. Moreover, choosing a vegetable juice like ‘carrot juice’ will also work.
Juices are easily absorbed and raise blood sugar instantly. Juices are especially used in the emergency treatment of hypoglycemia because of their instant action.
About half a cup of Orange juice is usually sufficient to raise blood sugar to safe limits in emergency situations.
Table Sugar may sometimes be the only option to treat hypoglycemia at home:
What can possibly be a more convenient option than a spoonful of table sugar? This might be the only option that is available in every household.
So, whenever your blood glucose level is low you can just rush to the kitchen and eat a teaspoon of table sugar.
One tablespoon of sugar contains about 8 gms of sugar. Taking two tablespoons, ie. 16 gms, is enough to raise the blood sugar instantly.
Sweets Or Candies:
This one will totally help with your sweet tooth cravings and it can be the favorite option for people with diabetes.
Diabetics should keep candy or sweets with them at all times so to prevent any incidence of hypoglycemia.
Candies are especially used when a person develops symptoms of hypoglycemia outside of the home or while exercising.
On top of being filled with nutrition and antioxidants, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index making them the perfect option for curing hypoglycemia. It has a good amount of fiber in it as well.
Sweet potatoes are best when the symptoms of hypoglycemia have just started. They may not be very effective in an emergency situation as the rise in blood sugar is not rapid.
Oatmeal is another food item that has a glycemic index of 55. So, you can eat a cup of oatmeal without the fear of any spikes in your blood sugar level.
It helps with enhancing insulin sensitivity as well. Still, it is only healthy if eaten in moderation.
According to a study, oats are very healthy for maintaining proper blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. [Ref]
Nuts for the treatment of hypoglycemia:
Nuts come in a great variety and they usually have a low GI and are loaded with fiber.
They have unsaturated fatty acids and plant-based proteins. So, a handful of almonds can help with treating hypoglycemia.
The consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. [Ref].
Nuts such as peanuts and almonds should not be used in an emergency situation when a rapid rise in glucose is required.
Dairy products have been used to treat hypoglycemia in the past. One glass full of milk can be taken to treat low blood sugar levels.
Other products like yogurt and even ice creams are great options.
A glass of milk and two biscuits are good options for mild to moderate hypoglycemia.
Biscuits or candies will raise the blood sugar instantly while milk will prevent the recurrence of hypoglycemia.
Honey for hypoglycemia:
It has a glycemic index score of 58 meaning that it will raise your blood sugar level.
But there is a chance that it might cause a spike in your glucose level so only take a teaspoon of honey if you develop hypoglycemia.
Honey can also be mixed with water and ingested. It might take up to 30 minutes to raise the blood sugar.
Medicines for the emergency treatment of hypoglycemia:
Apart from food items, medicines can also help elevate blood sugar levels in case of hypoglycemia. Such medicines may include glucose tablets and glucose-elevating agents like glucagon.
Glucagon releases the stored glucose from the liver and very rapidly increases blood glucose. It is especially given in hospital settings when a person is unconscious due to hypoglycemia.
Glucagon is recommended for all patients with severe hypoglycemia (54 mg/dl or less or level 2 hypoglycemia).
It can be given as intramuscular, intravenous, subcutaneous, or inhaled into the nostrils [Ref]
Tips To Remember when treating hypoglycemia:
It is advised to practice a healthy lifestyle to maintain proper blood glucose levels and avoid any fluctuations in it.
Keep yourself hydrated at all times and make sure that you have something in your pocket, like candy or sweets, in case of an emergency.
If you are diabetic, make sure that you do not overdose on any of the items listed above as they are eaten to elevate blood sugar level and overeating can cause a spike in your glucose level causing hyperglycemia which will result in other complications.