First Aid for Diabetics - What to do in case of a sugar shock?

When diabetics are exposed to hypoglycemia, rapid assistance is needed. In this article, affected persons as well as third parties will learn about the first measures that are useful.

The term hypoglycemia means a low blood glucose level. Due to the sugar shock the metabolic processes in the body are disturbed, which can lead to unconsciousness of the diabetic. Hypoglycemia can be recognized by the following signs:

  • rapid pulse
  • cold sweats
  • pale facial colour
  • ravenous appetite
  • trembeling, weak knees
  • restlessness, nervousness

If the blood glucose level continues to fall, the lack of energy in the brain leads to signs such as:

  • concentration difficulties
  • headache
  • speech and vision disorders

Symptoms that suggest severe hypoglycaemia and a pronounced lack of energy of brain cells include:

  • behavioural disorders (aggressiveness)
  • impairments of consciousness
  • coordination disorders
  • seizures


What diabetics can do by themselves in an emergency case:

People affected by diabetes should remain aware of their body´s signals. For example, ravenous hunger, sweating and feeling shaky may be signs of low blood sugar. The blood glucose can be adjusted quickly by consuming sugar. In addition, the blood glucose levels should be checked regularly. Even if the insulin has been injected as usual, there may be unexpected problems of the blood glucose level due to other influences, for example, when eating habits change. A low, especially carbohydrate-poor food intake favors the occurrence of hypoglycemia. This is why diabetics are advised against a rapid change of their diet. In general, affected persons should pay attention to a balanced and healthy diet so that the blood glucose level is positively influenced.

In order to be able to quickly take measures against hypoglycemia, diabetics should always carry glucose sweets. In addition, diabetics should always have a health passport for diabetes at hand. This allows first-aiders to act more quickly in a critical situation. The emergency doctor can also extract helpful information from the pass and help the patient more quickly and more precisely.

Patients who have major problems with diabetes treatment and are exposed to the risk of frequent sugar shock can also get assistance from diabetes dogs. The four-legged friends will accompany the diabetics in their everyday lives and react when they smell a hypoglycemia. The dogs can perceive the low blood glucose level and alert the owner immediately.


How third parties can help in case of a sugar shock.

If a hypoglycemia occurs, third parties should help a diabetic. And if the patient tends to or actually becomes unconscious, help is absolutely necessary.

  1. The first step is to walk up to the diabetic and ask whether they need help. Since the observed symptoms are partly the same as for drunken people, there may be some fear in doing so. But, since it is about the health of a fellow human being, this fear should be overcome. Some diabetics do not always welcome help, but want to solve the situation by themselves. Therefore, the person should be calmly addressed and in any case a helping action should be performed.
  2. The helper should provide the affected person with sugary food. The most suitable are glucose sweets. Also sweet drinks are a proper alternative. You should avoid food which, in addition to a high sugar content, also contains a lot of fat, since fat slows the sugar intake. If the patient is a stranger, calling a relative or a friend is recommended.
  3. If the patient is in a confused state, if paralysis symptoms occur or if the person is unconscious, an emergency doctor must be called immediately. In the case of unconsciousness, the person should be placed in the recovery position and the respiration should be checked again and again until the doctor arrives. In this case, the administration of glucose sweets or other sugar-rich foods must not be carried out, since there is a risk of suffocation. 

When first-aiders perform these little tips, they can do nothing wrong. Therefore, everyone should have the courage to go to a person who seems to be suffering a sugar shock.