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Going low? How to spot hypos and deal with it
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”.
With self-isolation and having to stay indoors most of the time you may be finding it more difficult to adjust your insulin dose to your reduced level of physical activity. If so, please consult with your doctor as you may be at an increased risk of experiencing low blood sugar levels.
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.
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 sweets. Fruit juice or a regular soda drink can also be helpful to quickly raise your blood sugar levels.
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.
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.