Nondiabetic Hypoglycemic Reaction

You have had an episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). A single episode of hypoglycemia doesn't mean that this problem will happen again. There are many causes for low blood sugar. These include poor diet, eating highly refined starchy foods (carbohydrates), drinking too much alcohol, intense exercise, severe tiredness (fatigue), stress, pregnancy, and some illnesses.

Your blood sugar level may also be affected by tobacco, caffeine, and certain medicines, including:

  • Aspirin

  • Haloperidol

  • Propoxyphene

  • Chlorpromazine

  • Propranolol

  • Disopyramide

  • ACE inhibitors

  • Quinolones (certain antibiotics)

  • Quinine

  • Lithium

  • Many of the medicines used by people with diabetes to lower their blood sugar

A class of medicine called beta-blockers is used for high blood pressure, rapid heart rates, and other conditions. Beta-blockers may prevent the early symptoms of low blood sugar. If you're taking a beta-blocker, you might not realize that your blood sugar is getting low. If you're taking a beta-blocker and are more likely to have low blood sugar, talk with your healthcare provider about switching to a different class of medicine. The beta-blocker class includes:

  • Propranolol

  • Atenolol

  • Metoprolol

  • Nadolol

  • Labetalol

  • Carvedilol

Home care

  • Rest today and go back to a normal diet. Eliminate any of the above known causes where possible. Check with your healthcare provider before changing any of your medicines.

  • The proper diet for diagnosed hypoglycemia is high protein (20% of calories), low carbohydrate (50% of calories), and moderate fat (30% of calories) in 6 small meals per day.

  • If this is your first episode of low blood sugar, or if you haven't yet been tested with a glucose or mixed meal tolerance test, eat small frequent meals rather than fewer large meals. Limit starchy foods during the next 1 to 2 days to prevent low blood sugar from happening again.

  • It's important to learn the warning signals your body gives as your blood sugar starts to drop. See the symptoms listed below. Make a note of whether or not eating some fast-acting sugar actually relieves these symptoms.

If symptoms of hypoglycemia return

  • Keep a source of fast-acting sugar with you. At the first sign of low blood sugar, eat or drink 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting sugar. Examples include:

    • 3 to 4 glucose tablets or 1 dose of glucose gel (usually 1 tube), found at most drugstores

    • 4 ounces regular soda (don't use diet soda)

    • 4 ounces fruit juice

    • 2 tablespoons raisins

    • 1 tablespoon honey

    • 8 ounces nonfat or 1% milk

    • Hard candies, gumdrops, or jellybeans (check the package for serving size)

  • Eat a regular meal, with protein and fat, to help stabilize your blood sugar.

  • If consuming fast-acting sugar doesn't improve your symptoms within 20 minutes, call 911 and go to an emergency room (ER). Don't drive yourself.

  • If you have severe hypoglycemic spells, wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card in your wallet describing this condition. If you have a severe hypoglycemic reaction and are unable to give this information, it'll help healthcare workers give you proper care.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these symptoms of low blood sugar occur.

  • Fatigue or headache

  • Trembling, nausea, or excess sweating

  • Hunger

  • Feeling anxious or restless

  • Vision changes

  • Irritability

  • Sleepiness

  • Dizziness

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Drowsiness

  • Weakness

  • Confusion

  • Seizures

  • Loss of consciousness

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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