November is Diabetes Awareness Month. During this month, the Diabetes Education Program will be providing articles on topics to help in the management of diabetes. The topics include hypoglycemia, foot care, healthy eating, and physical activity, and sick day management.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a concern for those living with diabetes. Some medication can increase the risk of hypoglycemia, as can skipping or delaying a meal, being more physically active than normal or eating fewer carbohydrates than planned. Signs of low blood sugar can be different for everyone. Some typical symptoms include feeling tired, anxious, dizzy, confused, sweaty, headache, changes in vision, and hunger. If you have any of these symptoms it is important to check your blood sugar. If you do not have a monitor nearby, it is best to assume your blood sugar is low and treat it anyway. A blood sugar below 4.0 mmol/L is considered a low blood sugar, however, some individuals may experience these symptoms at a higher reading, it all depends on your body.
Low blood sugar is treated by taking 15 grams of fast-acting sugar, which could be 4 Dex 4 tablets, 1 tablespoon of honey, 2/3 cup of juice or regular pop, 1 tablespoon sugar in water or 6 lifesavers. Try to avoid using things like chocolate, cake, muffins, or chips to treat low blood sugar. These things take longer to be broken down into sugar in our bodies.
Once you have treated your low blood sugar it is recommended you wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar again to be sure your treatment has worked. If your blood sugar is still low you should treat again. If your treatment has been successful it is important you follow up your treatment with a snack if your next meal is more than 1 hour away. The snack should include and carbohydrate and a protein such as crackers & cheese, or bread with peanut butter. If your next meal is within the next hour a snack is not required.
It is important to wait 40 minutes before getting behind the wheel after having a low blood sugar. Your blood sugar should also have responded to treatment and be above 5.0 mmol/L.
Check out these handouts from Diabetes Canada on hypoglycemia and driving safety:
For more information about hypoglycemia and diabetes self-management, contact the North Algoma Diabetes Education Program by calling 705-856-2335 ext. 3108.