If you use insulin, your doctor may prescribe a glucagon emergency kit for you, to be used in the event of severe hypoglycemia, when you are unable to treat yourself or safely swallow food or liquids. Glucagon must be administered by injection, so you will want to teach your family members, coworkers, and possibly others how to use it and to be sure they know where your kit is located. Glucagon kits also have easy-to-use instructions with pictures to help the person giving the injection.
People who have had high blood glucose for a sustained period may experience symptoms of hypoglycemia at blood glucose levels higher than 70 mg/dl. This is because the brain has adapted to having high blood glucose. If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia when your blood glucose level is in the normal range, do your best not to eat or drink carbohydrate in response. Drinking water and taking a walk may help take your mind off the symptoms you’re feeling. Your brain will eventually adapt to normal blood glucose levels.
Blood glucose that is dropping quickly — which can be caused by taking too much medicine or by engaging in more physical activity than usual — may similarly cause signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, even when the actual blood glucose level is higher than 70 mg/dl. Eating or drinking carbohydrate in response is not recommended as long as your blood glucose is in a normal range, but you may need to recheck your blood glucose level periodically to make sure it isn’t dropping too low. If you frequently experience rapid drops in blood glucose level, you will learn from experience when to have a snack, and when to wait out the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
One way to prevent problems is to monitor your blood glucose level often enough to pick up on small problems before they become big problems. This is particularly important for anyone who is at risk of developing hypoglycemia, as listed above, or hyperglycemia. People who use an insulin pump are at higher risk of developing hyperglycemia because only fast-acting insulin is used in a pump. If the pump malfunctions or becomes accidentally disconnected, there is no long-acting insulin in the person’s system to continue moving glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells, so high blood glucose can develop quickly.
Another way to prevent problems is to keep records of your blood glucose monitoring results and to look for patterns in your numbers. While an isolated high blood glucose level may have little significance, a pattern of high blood glucose levels at a particular time of day or during or after a particular activity is often a sign that some part of your diabetes treatment plan needs adjustment.
When you record your blood glucose monitoring results, it’s helpful to also jot down information about your day, such as your food intake, sleep schedule, level of physical activity, or stress level. This type of information may be useful in determining the cause of any out-of-range blood glucose levels or patterns of blood glucose levels. Some newer meters allow the user to “tag” blood glucose readings with notations such as “meal” or “exercise.” In addition, most major meter companies now make software (usually sold separately from the meter) that can display several days’ or weeks’ worth of blood glucose readings in a variety of charts and graphs. These can make it easier to see blood glucose patterns, and if you can print them out, they’re handy to share with your diabetes care provider.
However you keep your blood glucose records, take them and your meter to all of your diabetes appointments to show to your health-care provider. Your provider is there to help you work out any problems in your diabetes management, not to scold you for having problems, so be sure to speak up when things aren’t working well.