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Going low? How to spot and deal with hypos

The outbreak of COVID-19 has challenged millions of people across the world to change the way they live their lives. Many people have been asked to stay indoors, either in self-isolation or quarantine. You may not be able to go outdoors for a walk or go to the gym as often as you like, and there may even be difficulties in going out and buying the food you prefer to eat. It can therefore be more challenging than normal to follow your daily routine – and this may also affect how your blood sugar levels regulate.

In this section, we will provide some ideas for how to manage your blood sugar during the COVID-19 crisis to help you stay within your optimal blood sugar range and reduce the risk of getting a low blood sugar level, which is also called hypoglycaemia or a “hypo”.

If you are finding it difficult to remember to eat regularly or if you are having challenges adjusting your insulin doses to reduced levels of physical activity due to self-isolation and staying indoors most of the time, please consult with your doctor as you may be at an increased risk of experiencing low blood sugar levels. 

“Hypos do not just affect you – it is important to also prepare your family for hypos”

-David Moreno is living with Type 1 diabetes in Madrid, Spain

How to spot a hypo – common symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of hypos include confusion, intense hunger, feeling sick, clumsiness, blurred vision and slurred speech. You may find you experience one or more of these when your blood sugar levels are low. Or a family member or friend might mention that you are acting a little strangely or that you look unwell.

On a site called Talk About Hypos, you will find videos with family members sharing how they are impacted by the hypos of their loved ones and that it is important to talk about it with your family and doctor.

Helping reduce the risk of hypos

Having a daily routine is one of the best ways to help you adapt to your new life during this unprecedented situation. Creating a daily routine, planning your mealtimes and ensuring you eat regularly, plus having planned time to check your blood sugar levels and take your insulin, will help you to spend more time within your ideal blood sugar range and reduce the risk of getting hypos.

It is also a good idea to manage your stress levels to help reduce the likelihood of hypos. Try reading, meditating, yoga, or perhaps something creative, like painting and drawing. Spending time with any pets you may have can also help ease any worries and stress. See this article to learn more about how to deal with stress.

So while responding with anxiety to something is sometimes reasonable, let’s discuss different ways to reduce the risk and impact of anxiety and discomfort.

It would be beneficial for your blood sugar balance, as well as your overall well-being, even if you just exercise for 10 minutes a day indoors – or outdoors if at all possible. There are many online fitness classes that you may wish to try. More ideas can be found in the “Tips for Exercise” section here.

Prolonged periods of stress can also lead to changes in blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of hypos. You can read more about how to monitor your blood sugar here.

What to do if you experience a hypo

If you start to feel unwell or notice some of the typical symptoms of a hypo, first check your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels are too low, it’s always recommended to treat a mild hypo with fast-acting sugar sources such as glucose tablets or sweets. Fruit juice or a regular soda drink can also be helpful to quickly raise your blood sugar levels.

"All of a sudden my hands are shaking and my body's shaking"

-Glenn Catina shares his experiences with hypos when living with type 2

Remember to recheck your blood sugar after 15 minutes to reassure if blood sugar levels have recovered. More severe cases (if loss of consciousness occurs or a seizure happens) may require getting support from emergency medical service. If a glucagon injection kit is available, it can be administered to manage severe hypos too.

Food with complex carbohydrates, such as highly-processed white bread, takes longer to be broken down by the body. These are not so good for the immediate management of a hypo, but can be useful for keeping blood glucose at a normal level after a hypo.

If you are having difficulties in controlling your blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of hypos, you should seek the advice of your doctor or nurse.

Learn more about hypos here

To learn more about hypos, better understand why they appear and how to track and reduce the risk of getting hypos, we recommend you join the Hypo Program on www.hypoprogram.com.

This is general disease awareness and should not be understood as medical advice. If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 or have questions, doubts or concerns, you should contact your doctor. Always follow the advice of local authorities.

In this article you will find links to third-party material not owned or controlled by Novo Nordisk. We are not responsible for the content or the accuracy of the information provided and have no control over the privacy policies or terms of use of such third-party sites.

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