Do You Have the Low Blood Sugar Blues? (Continued)


An ounce of prevention

When it comes to lows, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Your goal is to avoid as many lows as possible, without letting yourself run high to do that. If you feel you are having too many lows, see if they follow a pattern, then discuss any patterns you find with your health care provider. Do your lows tend to come at the same time of day, or after you exercise, or after you eat less than usual? It goes without saying that checking your blood sugar levels can help you figure this out.

Still, you can't avoid all lows, so you have to be prepared. That means, always carry a source of fast-acting carbohydrate, like the glucose gel we used in 1980. That way you can avoid situations like the one in which a high school student got low on an elevator stuck between floors. The only food available was a moldy cheese sandwich a classmate found in the bottom of her backpack.

Check your blood sugar. Check before you exercise and before you drive, to be sure it is safe for you to head out. And always check whenever you feel low and at night before bed if you are concerned about going low during the night. Remember, better safe than sorry.

Avoid overtreating lows

One of the hardest things to do when you are low is to stop eating or drinking before you have taken in so much that your blood sugar skyrockets, leaving you with that awful feeling you get when your blood sugars are bouncing. Unfortunately, stopping when you should is really hard, because your body is saying, "I don't feel right yet, give me more" and it is saying it very loudly. Try to find any way you can to avoid overdoing it. Some people say it helps to have food items with the right amount of carbohydrate (15-30 grams) available, eat one, and then keep saying over and over again something like this, "I'll be okay. I don't want to overdo it. If I'm not fine in 15 minutes, I'll eat some more."

What can your loved ones do to help?

Finally, make sure your loved ones know how to help. Hopefully you have someone at home who can give you glucagon if you need it. You'll need glucagon if you go so low you pass out and can't eat or drink to get back to normal. Also, help your loved ones learn ways to help– and not hassle – you when you go low. Figure out what works for you. Here are a couple of examples I heard recently: "Tell me to test my blood; if it's low I'll eat something," and "Just say, ‘drink this juice for me.'"

I hope some of these stories and tips help you treat your low blood sugar blues.

Richard Rubin, PhD, CDE, is an Associate Professor in Medicine and in Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. An active member of the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators, Dr. Rubin has written over 100 articles, books, and book chapters for people with diabetes and for diabetes health care providers. He writes about emotional and behavioral issues related to diabetes for dLife.

Read Dr. Rubin's bio.

Read more of Dr. Rubin's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

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Last Modified Date: June 17, 2013

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

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