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October 3, 2002

Hypoglycemia, Other Social Issues

Question from Medford, Minnesota, USA:

A co-worker had an episode of what I believe was low blood sugar as he required soda pop to overcome it. His supervisor was unaware of his condition, would not accommodate his wishes, and later scolded my friend for not maintaining his program and taking proper precautions for his diabetes as well as not informing him of the urgency of his need for pop. My co-worker is now telling me that the supervisor put his life in danger. Are the symptoms of low blood sugar so rapid in coming on that they become life threatening in some patients? Is there a way for a co-worker or supervisor to support the required care needed when they are unaware of the condition? Our boss felt very badly, and my co-worker is blaming him for not responding properly. What are the indicators and consequences?

Answer:

What a terrible mess this is! Low blood sugar can come on very quickly and severely and requires prompt treatment with a fast acting carbohydrate such as regular soda pop. Your co-worker/friend with diabetes is entitled to confidentiality regarding his diabetes as long as he does not hold others accountable for not helping him when they have no idea what is wrong.

I advise my patients who take medication that can cause low blood sugar to wear medical ID, to always carry a source of fast acting carbohydrate, and to notify friends and co-workers about the signs, symptoms, and best treatment of hypoglycemia. Co-workers should be informed of where the person with diabetes may keep a stash of glucose tablets, raisins and other carbohydrates in the office to treat low blood sugar in case the person is not well enough to think fast. I would encourage your friend to talk to others about this so this doesn’t happen again.

JS