Hypo Cleaning Fits

Why am I struck with that urge to clean when I'm low?


Kerri SparlingBy Kerri Sparling

I find myself spraying Clorox on the counter and rubbing frantically with a fistful of paper towels, not noticing that my forehead is damp with sweat. Once that task is accomplished, I notice that the floor just below the refrigerator door is sticky with juice or something, so I kneel down and scrub that, too. And then suddenly the fridge door needs a scrub down, and I should probably grab all the sweet potatoes that are growing actual faces there on the back shelf and I think there's a jar of minced garlic that's spilled somewhere in there and ... 

... all while the Dexcom wails, shouting the alarm equivalent of, "LOW!! KERRI!! STOP CLEANING AND EAT SOMETHING!!!"

I look at the CGM graph and see the double-down arrows, so I confirm the low with my meter. But it takes an awful lot of self-control to stop scrubbing and drink some grape juice.

Why am I struck with that urge to clean when I'm low? I do not understand what it is about the Low Cleaning Crew that moves into my brain when the sugar apparently moves out, but they are a merry and manic mix of maids. When my blood sugar is in the absolute trenches, I get these cleaning fits. I want to clean everything in my path. Emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, picking up the piles of Birdy toys that litter the floor ... it's like the slow ebbing of glucose from my blood stream makes my body feel so disorganized and rattled that I search and destroy all external messes to level the proverbial playing field.

This apparently happens to a lot of people with diabetes during their hypoglycemic events, or so my anecdotal evidence shows me. One friend with diabetes even told me that she once ate a candy bar while cleaning the toilet, which is a mental image I can't yet let go of.

So if I'm low on occasion and compelled to clean aggressively during these lows … why isn't my house cleaner on a regular basis?

Usually, it's the beading of sweat on my forehead that makes me stop cleaning and acknowledge my blood sugar. A lot of times, that cleaning fit comes with a frantically panicked mindset, where my brain is racing to think as many thoughts in as little time as possible, my hands shaking open a new garbage bag or sliding silverware into its place in the drawer organizer.

What's frustrating is that I actually realize I'm low halfway through folding a pile of laundry, but I still don't stop. It's like I'm running a race, and I need to cross the finish line before I've "earned" the glucose tabs or the glass of juice. I wish there was a way to gently explain to my frantic brain that, "Yes, it's okay to clean, but if you don't treat the low first, you will make an even bigger mess." (At which point I'd pat myself on the head.)

"Did you have a low?" my husband asks, looking at the gleaming kitchen and the piles of folded clothes.

"How could you tell?" I responded, wiping the glucose dust off the kitchen counter with a swipe of my sleeve.

"Wild guess."

Visit Kerri's website.

Write Kerri

dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: June 17, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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