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Going low? How to spot hypos and deal with it 

Diabetes is all about your body's ability to produce and use the hormone insulin1. Insulin forms part of the blood sugar (glucose) regulation system, and when it isn't being produced or able to be used effectively, blood sugar levels can become unbalanced1. A period where there is a low concentration of glucose in the blood is called hypoglycaemia, or a 'hypo'1. In this section, we will provide some ideas for preventing, identifying and managing a hypo.

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 speech2. 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 hypos1.

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.

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. 

Prolonged periods of stress can also lead to changes in blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of hypos3. You can read more about how to monitor your blood sugar here.

How to manage and treat hypos

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 sweets2. Fruit juice or a regular soda drink can also be helpful to quickly raise your blood sugar levels2.

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 too2.

Food with complex carbohydrates, such as highly-processed white bread, takes longer to be broken down by the body4. 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.


  1. International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas (10th edition). Available at: https://diabetesatlas.org/. Last accessed: January 2024. 
  2. NHS UK. Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/low-blood-sugar-hypoglycaemia/. Last accessed: January 2024.
  3. Diabetes.co.uk. Stress and Blood Glucose Levels. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/stress-and-blood-glucose-levels.html. Last accessed: January 2024.
  4. Diabetes.co.uk. Simple vs Complex Carbs. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/nutrition/simple-carbs-vs-complex-carbs.html. Last accessed: January 2024.