Nondiabetic Hypoglycemic Reaction

You have had an episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). A single episode of hypoglycemia does not mean that this problem will recur. There are many causes for low blood sugar. These include eating highly refined starchy foods (carbohydrates), drinking too much alcohol, intense exercise, fatigue, stress, poor diet, pregnancy, and certain 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)

  • 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 are taking a beta-blocker, you might not realize that your blood sugar is getting low. If you are taking a beta-blocker and are prone to low blood sugar, talk to 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 resume 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 true hypoglycemia (diagnosed with a glucose tolerance test) 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 have not 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 avoid a recurrence of low blood sugar.

  • It is important to learn the warning signals your body gives as your blood sugar starts to drop. See the symptoms listed below.

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 (found at most drugstores)

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

    • 4 ounces of fruit juice

    • 2 tablespoons of raisins

    • 1 tablespoon of honey

    • 8 ounces of nonfat or 1% milk

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

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

  • If consuming fast-acting sugar does not improve your symptoms within 20 minutes, call 911 and go to an emergency room. 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 will help medical staff provide proper care.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

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

  • Fatigue or headache

  • Trembling 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

  • Loss of consciousness

© 2000-2021 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.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell