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Recognize and Give First Aid for Diabetic Emergencies

By Justin Haagen on Jun 28, 2016 in Managing Medical Emergencies, Simple Life-Saving Skills

A diabetic emergency can occur when the amount of sugar in the blood becomes very high or very low

Diabetes is a disease in which the body cannot effectively use sugar for energy. Suspect the possibility of a diabetic emergency with anyone who has a gradual change in mental status.

The skin may be pale, cool, and sweaty. A provider may also notice a sweet or fruity smell in the person’s breath. If a person is diabetic, there may be evidence of the condition. Ask others about the person’s medical history or medications he or she may be taking.

Look for a medical alert bracelet or necklace identifying the condition. If you know the person is diabetic, determine his level of responsiveness and ability to swallow.

If the person has a diminished level of responsiveness and has difficulty swallowing, activate EMS.

  • Do not give anything to eat or drink.
  • Consider placing the person in a recovery position to protect the airway.
  • If the person is responsive and able to swallow without difficulty, give sweet juice, candy, or any sweet substance containing sugar. If the person has oral glucose gel, use that instead. Do not use anything with an artificial sweetener. Calm, comfort, and reassure the person. If he responds to the sugar, his mental status will gradually improve. If there is no improvement within fifteen minutes or the condition worsens, activate EMS.

It is important to note that insulin is not considered an emergency medication. It is never appropriate to administer insulin to a diabetic person in an emergency setting.

Diabetes in Children & Teens/Diabetic Emergencies

"In my experience, I have seen Justin Haagen teach CPR/First Aid to high school students training to be cabin leaders at a camp; to full-time professional adults working at a Museum. In both settings (and organizations) she knows how to read her audience and paces her lessons accordingly. She really provides lessons that fit each demographic (especially with kids that often tire from the tediousness of typical CPR/First Aid classes, Justin makes it fun for them by keeping them active and practicing, not just listening). Justin is flexible and can work around your schedule, and just an overall nice person."
JC, Santa Barbara