Glucagon Emergency Rescue Kit

Glucagon is a hormone that raises the level of glucose in the blood. The alpha cells of the pancreas, in areas called the islets of Langerhans, make glucagon when the body needs to put more sugar into the blood.  Glucagon binds to a receptor on liver and muscle cells (called the glucagon receptor), stimulating the cells to release glucose.

For people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not release insulin, making them unable to adjust insulin levels in response to glucose levels, and type 1 diabetes can also impede the secretion of glucagon, making them at risk for severe low blood sugars.

Everyone who uses insulin should have a glucagon emergency kit on hand at all times to counteract severe hypoglycemia that causes loss of consciousness, or if sugar cannot be given. The glucagon kit should be stored where all the family members know where to find it. Storage temperatures should be under 90 degrees F (28 degrees C).

Glucagon, like insulin, must be injected. Within the currently-available glucagon kit are a syringe pre-filled with a liquid and a vial of powdered glucagon. You prepare the glucagon for injection immediately before use by following the instructions that are included with the glucagon kit. In general, small children (under 20 kg, or 44 pounds) are given 1/2 cc (half the syringe), while older children and adults are given 1cc (the entire syringe). In kids, some authorities advise using 1/2 cc to start with, then giving the other 1/2 about 20 minutes later if needed. This method can lessen the rebound hyperglycemia that usually ensues after use of glucagon. There is no danger of overdose, however. Injection is given in a large muscle, such as the buttocks, thigh or arm. (The needle on the syringe is usually larger than those on insulin syringes.)

One of the potential side effects of a rescue dose of glucagon is vomiting, so be sure to place the person on his or her side prior to injecting so they do not choke. After injecting glucagon, follow with food once the person regains consciousness and is able to swallow.

Photo by Jeff Hitchcock. Property of CWD.

Lilly's Glucagon Emergency Kit, opened.

Photo by Jeff Hitchcock. Property of CWD.

The syringe filled with diluent and the vial filled with the dry powder glucagon from the Lilly Glucagon Kit

Mini-Dose Glucagon Rescue

Glucagon can be used for more than just rescue when someone has lost consciousness. It can be used, in small doses, to raise blood sugar when someone can't eat -- for example, when sick due to a stomach illness. This is called mini-dose glucagon rescue, and while it is off label, many people with type 1 diabetes report using it with great success.

Learn more on our Mini-Dose Glucagon Rescue page.

Nasal glucagon has recently been approved by the FDA - more information coming soon.