Learn first aid for someone who is having a diabetic emergency

1. Give them something sweet to eat or a non-diet drink.

If someone has a diabetic emergency, their blood sugar levels can become too low. This can make them collapse. Giving them something sugary will help raise their blood sugar levels and improve their bodily function. Avoid giving them a diet drink, as it won’t have any sugar in it and will not help them.

2. Reassure the person. Most people will gradually improve, but if in doubt, call 999.

If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it.

Watch how to help someone who is having a diabetic emergency (1 minute 47 seconds)

Common questions about first aid for someone who is having a diabetic emergency

What is diabetes?


What are the signs and symptoms of a diabetic emergency?


What happens in a diabetic emergency?


What should I give them to eat or drink?


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


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


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


How should I decide when to call 999?


 

What is diabetes?

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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What are the signs and symptoms of a diabetic emergency?

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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What happens in a diabetic emergency?

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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What should I give them to eat or drink?

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

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

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

Find out:

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How should I decide when to call 999?

Call 999 if the person’s condition doesn’t improve or they become unresponsive.

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Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for someone having a diabetic emergency.