Diabetic Emergencies: Follow these steps!

Diabetics can fall victim to certain severe symptoms that may lead to a diabetic emergency anywhere. It could be at home, workplace, market or any other place. But, certain quick steps at right time can be a bonus point for their life. Hence, it becomes crucial for diabetics and their families to know those basic steps that can help them avert diabetic emergencies.

Steps to handle diabetic emergencies

Dr Raghav (MBBS, DNB General Medicine) says, ?Diabetes (type 1 and type 2) share a common set of problems. The most common ones being either very high (hyperglycemic) or very low (hypoglycemic) blood sugar levels.? So, as soon as you suspect any signs and symptoms, following these steps can do a wonder!

Step 1: Check the blood sugar levels

If you have a glucometer around, please check the blood sugar levels to ensure whether it is Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that has affected the diabetic.

Step 2: Help a diabetic recover safely.
a.??? In Hypoglycemia (Low blood sugar)

Few simple observations can help in identifying the patient’s situation. For example, if the patient on a regular insulin or oral treatment for diabetes skips a meal or maybe has an infection (risk factors for hypoglycemia), he/she will have sweating or palpitations, (“ghabharahat” in the patient?s words). This happens when the blood sugar falls to below 60-80mg%, says Dr Raghav.

To prevent this, it is advisable that the diabetics take their meals regularly at small intervals and visit a specialist, if they notice any of the above signs.

Also, it is recommended that a diabetic, at all times has a ready access to food and should always carry something along.

On hypoglycemic episode

  1. If the patient is conscious and alert, help the patient sit down and give him/her a sugary snack/drink. Consider feeding him/her a combination of carbohydrate and protein. However, for quick relief you may consider?glucose tablet, 1/2 cup chopped fruits, mango (1 slice), fruit juice or any sugar candy. If the patient improves quickly, give him some more snacks and let him rest.
  2. Recheck the blood sugar levels and stay with the patient until he/she feels better.
  3. If the patient does not improve quickly, keep checking the responsiveness, breathing and pulse and call for medical help simultaneously.

Rush the patient to the hospital, incase the patient becomes unconscious.?The medications may need to be reduced (stopped for the initial 24-48hrs). But, this is to be done under the doctor?s supervision only.

2. Hyperglycemia (High blood sugar)

It is not as common a problem as hypoglycemia, as many diabetics will tolerate as high as 500mg% of sugar without any signs and symptoms. Important in such patients is to identify the emergency says Dr Raghav.

He adds, if a patient with very high blood sugar looks dehydrated, has a pain in his stomach and vomits, take the patient to the hospital (the patient may have DKA, diabetic keto-acidosis). Also, the patient may have a fruity odour in his/her breath.

If the patient has an infection, has tremors or maybe loses consciousness, check blood sugar levels. If above 300-350, the patient needs hospitalization (may have HHS, hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state).

Home management of high sugar would be mainly giving lots of water to the patient if he can drink, as, patient tends to be dehydrated. You can give about 2-3 litres of water to the patient, depending on patient’s intake.

Diet control, avoiding sugar, and taking medications timely are other important considerations.

Keep checking responses and breathing while you call for medical help.

If the patient is unconscious, support the patient on their side and DO NOT give the patient anything to?eat or drink. Wait for the medical help to arrive

A word of caution!

Even if the patient has improved with the intake of carbohydrate, seeking medical advice is still necessary.

DO NOT give an insulin dose to the patient. ?It can be dangerous. Wait for the patient’s medical assessment.

Kawaljit Kaur

Kawaljit is a healthcare professional with an experience of over 15 years in healthcare operations. Her last corporate position was Vice President-Operations at Centre for Sight. As a writer, she has an expertise in writing medical contents and those related to present healthcare scenarios for various platforms that include medical professionals, healthcare companies, web health portals, hospitals and at present also heading the editorial team of a healthcare magazine.