On Hypoglycemia: When The 15:15 Rule Saves

Photo credit: http://health.rush.edu

I always hear doctors say that if they were to treat a diabetic, they would prefer them to be hypoglycemic rather than the other. As a nurse, I have seen how patients who are normal in one minute slip into this hypoglycemic realm down to unconsciousness. I had patients who were pleasant and conversing who suddenly turn confused and agitated – climbing out from their beds and resisting nurses and doctors.

I must admit it is amazing how sugar works in the body especially when you see first hand how patients react differently from their usual just because their blood sugar level is creeping lowly.

Experienced and compliant diabetic patients know for themselves whenever they start to go through the doldrums of hypoglycemia. They would start feeling shaky, dizzy and light headed. They could also be unusually clumsy.Sometimes they’ll present with such pale skin color  and extreme sweating. Before they fall into confusion and unconsciousness, they would know what to do and eat. They won’t even need to check their blood sugar levels. They just know that it’s too low.

But for those who are unaware of these things – like a newly diagnosed diabetic who has not been educated yet, or a bystander observing someone who has the above signs and symptoms- it could be pretty scary. Statistics say that 13% of people’s death is caused by type 1 diabetes on hypoglycemic events. Now, it may not be a huge number but to think that people actually slip into coma and die because they or the person standing next to them failed to feed them candy can be really daunting.

Fortunately, there is a way to decrease this likelihood only if people would be aware of the signs and symptoms and the emergency response.

Back to basics.

What is Hypoglycemia? Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar (below 70mg/dL or 4 mmols/L).

What causes Hypoglycemia?

-Eating too little causing insufficiency of glucose in the body.

-Exercising too much that glucose in the system is used up.

-Incorrect use of diabetes medications or insulin.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hypoglycemia? People experiencing hypoglycemia may look shaky and pale. They can get confused and disorientated. They will feel dizzy, weak and may have a throbbing headache.

What to do? Apply the 15:15 Rule. This means to eat 15 grams of carbohydrates then wait 15 minutes to re-check the blood sugar level. If the blood sugar is still low or if still showing signs and symptoms, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrates and wait another 15 minutes.

So what are the 15 grams of carbohydrates? It can be any of the following:

6 hard candies

1/2 cup of juice

1 tbsp of honey

1 tbsp sugar

8 ounces of milk

Eating 15 grams of carbohydrates can boost up the blood sugar by 50 mg/dL. The idea is to bring up the blood sugar level safely to a normal level.

But remember not to shove food or drinks to a person who is already unconscious! And remember, if unsure of what to do, you can always call for help or dial the emergency number.

Diabetes is widespread. It is sad that 13% of the population die because of low sugar because the patient itself and we as well do not know what to do. The 15:15 rule is a simple, practical way of remembering what to do in cases of hypoglycemic events.

Who would have thought bringing a couple of candies in your pocket can save a life?