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First aid: Dealing with Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which the body can’t produce enough insulin, a chemical that regulates your blood sugar (glucose) level. For diabetics, these levels can get too high or too low. These are serious conditions that may need treatment in hospital.

When blood sugar levels are too high (hyperglycaemia), the body is getting too little insulin. When blood sugar levels are too low (hypoglycaemia) it’s getting too much insulin.

People with high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia) may have:

  • Warm, dry skin
  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Fruity sweet breath
  • Excessive thirst
  • Drowsiness which can lead to unconsciousness if not treated

If you suspect hyperglycaemia, call 999 immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, continue to check their breathing and responsiveness. If they lose consciousness, open their airway, check their breathing, and administer CPR.

People with low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) may be:

  • Weak, faint or hungry
  • Confused and irrational
  • Sweaty with cold, clammy skin
  • Trembling
  • Less and less responsive with time

Check for a medical warning bracelet or necklace. They may carry glucose gel, an insulin pen or tablets and a glucose testing kit.

If you suspect hypoglycaemia, sit the person down. Help them take their own glucose gel or alternative. If none is available, give them something sugary like fruit juice or sugary sweets.

If this improves the situation, give them more sugary food or drink and let them rest. Help them check their glucose levels using their testing kit, and stay with them until they feel completely better. If they do not improve, call 999 or get someone to do it. Continue to check their breathing and responsiveness.

If you aren’t sure whether their blood sugar is high or low, give them something sugary anyway. If their levels are low it will help raise them, and if they’re high it won’t do any harm. If there’s no improvement, call 999 or get someone to do it.

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