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Would you know what to look for in a Diabetic Emergency?

Diabetes is the fastest growing health threat to our nation. The latest data published by Public health England reveals that there are over 3.8million diabetics in England over the age of 16 and it is estimated that by 2035 there will be 4.9million diabetics and it is suggested that 1 in 4 of these are unaware that they even have the condition, this is quite scary!!.

Most of us will regularly be in contact with someone who is diabetic via family, social events or within our work environment. One concern is , how many of us are aware of the signs and symptoms of a diabetic emergency and would we have the first aid knowledge to recognise and treat one.

Below we have highlighted the most common signs and symptoms you may come across for low and high blood sugars:


Hypoglycaemia is Low blood sugar. of which the signs and symptoms are:

  • Pale, cold and clammy

  • Lack of concentration, confusion, strange uncooperative behaviour ( beware can be confused with drunkenness

  • Shallow rapid breathing. Fast pulse

  • Deteriorating levels of response, leading to unconsciousness if not treated

The Treatment:

If the casualty is conscious and can swallow give glucose tablets or sugary drink, aim for 15-20g for an adult and 10g for a child. (NEVER give food or drink if patient is unconscious)

If the casualty responds quickly, give some more food and drink. Stay with them until there is no confusion and they are orientated to time and place.

Call 999 if they are unmanageable or do not respond to treatment within 15 minutes. Consider if there are any other causes that may account for the casualty's symptoms.


Hyperglycaemia is High Blood Sugar of which possible signs and symptoms are:

  • Increased thirst

  • Frequent urination

  • Blurred vision

  • Shortness of breath, rapid pulse

  • Fruity smelling breath

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Drowsy, lethargic behaviour

The Treatment:

Call 999 straight away, as they will need medical help and state to the operator that you suspect hyperglycaemia

Finally, it is always worth checking the casualty to see if they are carrying anything that may indicate they are diabetic or may help with their treatment. They may be wearing a medical alert necklace or bracelet or have a warning card on them.

You may also find some glucose gel/glucose tablets on them, as they would have been advised by their medical practitioner to always carry some with them. If they are Insulin dependent, then they may have their Insulin pen on them and glucose testing kit.

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