Hypo – a quick guide


Hypo – a quick guide

Hypo, hypoglycemia, low blood glucose or low blood sugar. All common terms for those living with Diabetes. In this article we take a look at what is a hypo, common symptoms, why it occurs and some ways to treat it.

What is a hypo?

Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below the range that is healthy for you. For those living with Diabetes this normally means lower than 3.9 mmol/L.  A hypo requires prompt treatment to prevent potential complications and restore glucose levels to safe levels.

Recognising the symptoms of a hypo:

Before looking at why a hypo occurs and the various treatment options, it’s crucial to recognise the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, which can vary from person to person. As a Diabetic it is important to pay attention to the common feelings you have when experiencing a hypo so you can quickly move to treatment.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Feeling shaky
  • Fast heart beat
  • Sudden hunger
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

What if I don’t get any signs that I am having as hypo?

Sometimes people are unable to recognise symptoms of hypoglycaemia and find it difficult to tell if their blood glucose might be low. This may be because a person has had diabetes for a long time, has had too many recent episodes of hypoglycaemia or haven’t  treated their hypoglycaemia correctly. It is possible to regain the ability to recognise symptoms of hypoglycaemia, a diabetes specialist or diabetes educator can provide help or support.

Why do hypos occur?

There can be several reasons that a hypo occurs for a Diabetic.  These can include:

  • Incorrect doses of insulin
  • Inadequate food intake
  • Increased physical activity
  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Illness

Overall, hypos are a common occurrence for many Type 1 Diabetics.

Treating Hypoglycemia

If a hypo is mild it is quite normal for a Diabetic to treat themselves (unless they require assistance due to age or capacity). It’s always recommended to carry with you a hypo kit of some sorts to allow to treat your hypo as quickly as possible.

If the blood glucose level is 4.0 mmol/L or less and your or the person you are with is conscious and able to swallow, the following is the best way to treat a hypo:.

Managing hypos

Take 15–20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate such as:

  • 6-7 Jelly beans, or
  • approx 150ml of soft drink or fruit juice, or
  • 15 grams of glucose gel or glucose tablets, or
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar or honey.

Recheck blood glucose in 15 minutes. If it is still 4.0 mmol/L or less, repeat step 1 and recheck in another 15 minutes. Once blood glucose is above 4.0 mmol/L it is advisable to follow one of these options to help maintain levels above 4.0 mmol/L:

  • if the next meal is more than an hour away, have a snack containing a slow-acting carbohydrates such as cereal, biscuits, a sandwich or a piece of fruit
  • if it is time for a meal, make sure that it contains sufficient carbohydrate

Symptoms of severe hypoglycaemia

Symptoms of severe hypoglycaemia include unable to think clearly or follow instructions, slurred speech, fitting (having a seizure) and becoming unconscious. In cases of severe hypo it’s always safest to dial an ambulance on Triple Zero (000). While you are waiting you can:

1. Put the person in the recovery position, on their side, with their head tilted back and knees bent.

2. If there is a glucagon injection available and someone knows how to administer it, provide immediately.


Getting help

Whilst hypos are common amongst Type 1 Diabetics it shouldn’t be a regular occurance.  If you or someone you care for is having regular hypos, you should speak to a specialist, GP or Diabetes educator on how you can tweak the treatment plan.

You can also read more about hypos at these resources:

What is hypoglycaemia?


Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented, it should not be construed as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of information obtained from this article. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk. The author and publisher of this article are not responsible for any errors or omissions in the content or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided herein.