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Questions and answers aboutdiabetes

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

Q

What is diabetes?

Answer
Answer

Diabetes is a medical condition that affects blood sugar levels. Normally, people’s bodies maintain the ideal blood sugar levels automatically. When a person has diabetes, their body fails to maintain the blood sugar balance, so they need to manage it through diet, tablets or insulin injections. Sometimes, a person who has diabetes can suffer diabetic emergencies, which require first aid.

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Q

What are the signs and symptoms of a diabetic emergency?

Answer
Answer

Signs and symptoms vary, but common ones include:

  • hunger
  • clammy skin
  • profuse sweating
  • drowsiness or confusion
  • weakness or feeling faint
  • sudden loss of responsiveness.
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Q

What happens in a diabetic emergency?

Answer
Answer

In most cases, the person’s blood sugar levels become too low. This is called hypoglycaemia. It can happen when the person has missed a meal or exercised too much. If left untreated, a diabetic emergency can become very serious.

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Q

What should I give them to eat or drink?

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Answer

You can give them sugary drinks such as cola, lemonade, fruit juice and isotonic sports drinks and sweet foods such as jelly beans, chocolate and sugar cubes. The person may also be carrying glucose gel or tablets. Avoid giving them a diet drink, as it won’t have any sugar in it and will not help them.

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Q

But some people have high blood sugar levels, so won’t giving them sugary drinks or food make their diabetic emergency worse?

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Answer

Some people do have high blood sugar levels, but giving them sugary drinks or food is unlikely to do any harm.

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Q

How will I know if this is a long-term condition for the person?

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Answer

They should be able to tell you, so listen to what they say. They may have some form of identification on them (e.g. a card, bracelet or necklace) that will give you information about their condition, or they may be carrying an insulin pen, glucose gel or glucose tablets.

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Q

What should I do if they become unresponsive as a result of a diabetic emergency?

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Q

How should I decide when to call an ambulance?

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Answer

Call an ambulance if the person’s condition doesn’t improve or they become unresponsive.

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