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July 27, 2001

Hypoglycemia

Question from Australia:

My eight year old was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. If he has a low, what foods do I give him to bring him back up, but not too high? What foods are fast acting and what foods are slow acting?

Answer:

A general rule of thumb for treating low blood sugar is to check blood sugar to confirm low (if possible), give your son 15 grams (1 serving) of fast acting carbohydrate (i.e. 4 ounces of juice, 2 tablespoons raisins, 6-7 lifesaver candies, 6 ounces regular soda), wait 15 minutes, then recheck blood sugar, and repeat if blood sugar has not risen to a “safe level” — generally above 100 mg/dl [5.5 mmol/L].

If it will be more than an hour until your son eats again, follow this fast acting carb up with some protein and carb (6 cheese and crackers or 1/2 meat sandwich). This will keep the blood sugar stabilized until the next snack or meal.

100% of the calories from carbohydrate foods are changed to glucose, so they affect blood sugars the fastest (15 minutes to an hour after you eat them), about 50% of the calories from protein are changed to glucose so they affect the blood sugar more slowly (two to three hours), and only about 10% of the calories from fatty foods change to glucose, so they have little immediate effect on blood glucose (more than four hours). Keep in mind, however, that fat slows down the absorption of glucose so things like chocolate should not be used for initial treatment of hypoglycemia.

JMS