Diabetes occurs when a person’s pancreas produces too much or too little insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use sugar. If the insulin production is too low, your body will have too much sugar. If insulin is too high, your blood sugar will be too low.

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There are two imbalances of blood sugar commonly associated with diabetes. Knowing the difference could save someone’s life! In medical terms, hypo means above or excess. Hyper means below or deficiency.  Hypoglycemia is an excess of blood sugar. In hyperglycemia the blood sugar it too low. If you encounter someone who’s having a “diabetic episode,” you need to know if the person’s blood sugar is too high or too low.


Hyperglycemia is an excess of sugar in the blood. If the blood sugar is too high, the person may go into a diabetic coma. A person suffering from a diabetic coma needs medical attention ASAP.

The signs of hyperglycemia include weakness, confusion, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea, loss of consciousness, and blood glucose level greater than 180 mg/dl.


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Hypoglycemia is the opposite of hyperglycemia. In hypoglycemia the blood sugar is too low. It’s possible that the person took insulin and didn’t eat enough food afterward. Perhaps the person took his or her insulin without checking the glucose level before.

The signs of hypoglycemia include headache, shakiness, dizziness, anxiety, loss of consciousness, and blood glucose level less than 70 mg/dl.

If a person is hypoglycemic, ingesting sugar will quickly help. Glucose tablets are available in almost all pharmacies. If you encounter a person who might be hypoglycemic, ask if he or she has any sugar or glucose tablets. If not, almost any type of sugar will work. Experts say to give the person fruit juice but few people carry juice in their back pocket. A sugary candy bar will help. Any type of hard candy that contains sugar should help. The goal is to raise the person’s blood sugar level as quickly as possible.


We also offer a free certificate of completion. To receive the certificate you must pass a 50-question test with a score of 70 or higher. Check our Basic First Aid Certificate of Completion page for more information.

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