How to Act Quickly in a Diabetic Emergency

Over 29 million people have diabetes in the U.S., nearly 10% of the total population.

With numbers that staggering, it makes diabetes one of the most common diseases, and chances are that you know someone who’s been affected by diabetes.

During this National Diabetes Awareness Month, we want our community to be ready for any emergency they may encounter. The best way to prepare for a diabetic emergency, also called diabetic shock, is to research the symptoms of these attacks and learn how to react quickly and effectively. Keep reading to learn more.

What is a diabetic emergency?

A diabetic emergency, or diabetic shock, can occur when there is either too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia) or too little sugar in the blood (hypoglycemia). Often, diabetic individuals will feel dizzy and their skin may appear grey or pale during an attack. The key to stopping a diabetic emergency before it progresses is to recognize the symptoms. Look for these signs.

  • Dry skin that may be warm to the touch
  • Drowsiness
  • Dazed or glossed-over look
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Rapid pulse and labored breathing
  • Sickly sweet breath
  • Excessive thirst

If the person isn’t taken immediately to an emergency room, they may faint, have a seizure or even fall into a coma. Knowing that someone has diabetes certainly makes it easier to recognize these symptoms and act quickly. If you see someone in public, like at a restaurant or gym, exhibiting some of these signs, check their person for any medical identifying tags. These are often worn as bracelets or necklaces and will provide contact information in the case of a diabetic emergency. This is the quickest way to ensure they’re treated properly.

 Act quickly

Once you’ve identified the symptoms, the next step is to determine if their blood sugar is too low or too high. Don’t ever assume that a diabetic individual experiencing an attack has low blood sugar as opposed to high blood sugar. If the individual is conscious, ask them what they’ve eaten that day. This will ensure that you’re helping to balance their blood sugar levels, not lower or increase them even more dangerously.

If their levels are too low, give them a sugary food or drink they can quickly eat, like:

  • Sodas
  • Fruit juices
  • Candy
  • Applesauce

Check for glucose gel packs on their person, too. If their levels are too high, give them lots of fluids. This will help to replace the nutrients lost through urination and dilute sugar in the blood. If available, give them electrolytes packs to help their tissues begin to function normally again.

How to Act Quickly in a Diabetic Emergency

If the individual is unconscious, try some of these tips while you wait on emergency first responders.

If they’re unconscious, become unconscious or their vitals don’t improve, call 911 immediately. Continue to monitor their vitals until medical emergency teams arrive.

We’re encouraging members of our community to learn more about this disease during this National Diabetes Awareness Month. For information about diabetic emergencies, visit this page.

Let us know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you had to act quickly and how you handled it!

Nutex Health, Inc. supports you and your family’s health. Come visit Golden Triangle Emergency Center or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.