A Diabetic's Bedside Stand - What to do when your sugar's low

A Diabetic's Bedside Stand - What to do when your sugar's low

If you've got diabetes, there's no doubt that a bedside stand can be your best friend! It can literally mean life or death for someone experiencing a low blood sugar in the middle of the night.

The signs of low blood sugar are very clear when awake, but they're much less obvious if they hit while you're asleep or just about to nod off. Here is a list of signs and symptoms:

  • Shakiness, nervousness or anxiety
  • Sweating, chills and clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Confusion, including delirium
  • Rapid/fast heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Hunger and nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
  • Headache
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Anger, stubbornness, or sadness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nightmares or crying out during sleep
  • Seizures or unconsciousness

To treat a low the minute you or your significant other notices these symptoms, keep the following items by your bedside, ready to use.

  • Carbohydrate/sugar tablets.
  • Glucometer with alcohol preps as appropriate.
  • Hard candies like peppermints, butterscotch or another favorite. Maybe jelly beans or gum drops.
  • Packets of honey or jelly are also great. These are easily picked up as breakfast leftovers at places like McDonalds, Burger King, Denny’s, etc. A packet of jelly or honey is very easily cut open and squirted into the mouth if blood sugar has dropped. Hold it in the mouth and let the sugar be absorbed.
  • A bottle of honey or syrup is okay and may be easier to use than the packets. A tablespoonful is about the right amount.
  • A small carton of juice (orange, pineapple, apple, grape, etc.) Flavor is not as important as having it available. It must be easy to open. Once your blood sugar has fallen, you may not be able to peel a difficult tab or pop a top. Twisting caps becomes difficult. Check this before you are disoriented. Look at the dates on products.
  • Scissors to cut packages open.
  • Extra bottle(s) of water.
  • Letter explaining medical condition and which hospital to take you to and who to call. (This letter should have all important information!)
  • Flashlight with working batteries or charged. If blood sugar has fallen and the electricity is out, this can spell disaster.
  • The drawer should be free of clutter. All other cabinet “stuff” should go in another place.
  • Shoes! Keep shoes at your bedside.
  • Walker or cane.

Remember: the last thing a person should try to do if their blood sugar has fallen is try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen to get something to eat or drink or call for help.

Everything you need should be within an arm's reach!

Only after your blood sugar has started to rise should you consider walking to the kitchen and bathroom. A snack bar will give you more solid food and a meal may be in order.

TIP: Set your alarm clock for one to two hours and check your blood sugar again, unless a really good meal was consumed to ensure a drop will not occur.

Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator

Comment by phillygirl
August 16, 2014
Hard candy, jelly beans and gum drops could post a choking hazard. Best to stick with things like jelly, honey or even that cake icing that comes in a tube because it dissolves quickly and acts faster. Also if using juice or sugary soda be sure to serve it in a plastic cup. When my daughter had those low episodes she became a bit combative and would push away any attempts to give her any food or drink.
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