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First Aid: Diabetic Emergencies / Low Blood Sugar & High Blood Sugar

Diabetic Emergencies
A diabetic emergency is a situation in which a victim is ill due to a problem with their blood sugar. Any victim with an altered mental status should always be evaluated for a potential diabetic emergency. Persons with diabetes are unable to properly regulate or manage their blood sugar levels. A victim may have high or low blood sugar. Most commonly persons who experience acute diabetic emergencies have low blood sugar. Therefore we assume that most people having signs of a diabetic emergency have low blood sugar and treat it accordingly.

Low blood sugar may occur if a person has not eaten or has vomited; has not eaten enough food in proportion to their activity; or has mismanaged their insulin. Insulin is a hormone inside the body that is used to help turn sugar into energy. Some diabetics may have to inject insulin into their body to help regulate their blood sugar. Signs of a diabetic emergency include: a change in behavior, change in level of mental status, confusion, aggression, hunger, weakness, sweating, pale or other abnormal appearance. Persons suffering from a diabetic emergency will not act themselves and may have trouble communicating or speaking.

If you suspect a person is suffering from a diabetic emergency and has low blood sugar you should act quickly and attempt to help to raise their blood sugar if possible. If the victim is able to sit up and swallow you should give the victim a beverage containing simple sugars; such as regular soda or orange juice. The simple sugars will help rapidly raise the victims blood sugar. To maintain an elevated blood sugar over time you should give the victim more complex sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great quick complex meal that will be broken down by the body into sugar over an extended period of time. If the victim does not respond or get better after being given sugars or is unable to speak, swallow, or sit up you should active 911 immediately.

Some diabetics may become hostile or violent when having a diabetic related emergency. Use caution.

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