A Practical Guide to Dangerous Blood Sugar Lows

Angela Breslin, RN
January 1, 2024
min read

Ever been in a situation where you suddenly felt dizzy, anxious, or perhaps experienced a rapid heartbeat? Could it be that your blood sugar dropped too low? Understanding 'blood sugar how low is too low' is crucial for anyone, especially those living with conditions like diabetes. At ProMed DME, we know that recognizing and responding to potentially dangerous low blood sugar levels can be a daunting task. That's why we have compiled this practical guide to help you navigate this critical health concern effectively.

Low blood sugar, medically termed as hypoglycemia, occurs when your body's glucose diminishes and falls beneath the safe threshold, specifically below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L). It's a tricky condition, with symptoms ranging from mild discomforts such as hunger and sweating to severe indicators like unclear thinking or even seizures. Moreover, low blood sugar doesn't choose its victims. While it's common among people with diabetes, anyone can experience it due to factors like excessive alcohol consumption, certain medical conditions and medications, or strenuous physical activities.

At the heart of this guide, we aim to provide accurate and actionable information, empowering you to recognize, manage, and even prevent dangerous blood sugar lows. Let's equip ourselves with knowledge for better health and wellness.

Infographic explaining the normal, pre-diabetes, diabetes and hypoglycemia ranges for blood sugar levels - blood sugar how low is too low infographic comparison-2-items-formal

In a nutshell, here's what you need to know about low blood sugar: - Blood sugar level is considered low or hypoglycemic when it is below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) - Common causes include excessive insulin, insufficient carbohydrate intake, certain health conditions and medications, and heavy alcohol consumption - Typical symptoms can range from mild ones like hunger, double vision, and sweating, to severe ones like shaking, unclear thinking, and seizures - If left unchecked or untreated, low blood sugar could lead to serious complications such as unconsciousness or even a coma - Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels and understanding of personal symptoms are crucial for early detection and management - When blood sugar is low, immediate intervention is needed which may include ingestion of quick-acting carbohydrates, adjustment of diabetes medications, and in some severe cases, seeking immediate medical attention.

Stay with us as we explore this vital topic more in-depth.

Understanding Blood Sugar Levels

In order to fully comprehend the concept of 'blood sugar how low is too low', first understand what blood sugar is and why it's so crucial to our health.

What is Blood Sugar and Why is it Important?

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main source of energy for our body's cells. It comes from the food we eat and is transported to our cells through our bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, assists in this transport process.

Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels is essential for our overall health. When blood sugar levels are too high or too low, it can lead to various health issues. High blood sugar levels, known as hyperglycemia, can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels, and organs over time. On the other hand, low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia, can cause immediate complications such as confusion, dizziness, and even unconsciousness.

Normal Blood Sugar Levels vs. Low Blood Sugar Levels

Normal blood glucose levels typically range between 4 to 6 mmol/L or 72 to 108 mg/dL. These levels indicate that your body is efficiently processing glucose from the food you eat, transforming it into energy, and maintaining a healthy balance.

On the other hand, when blood sugar levels drop below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L), it's considered low. This is the stage where you need to take action to bring it back up, as it can be harmful if left untreated. For people with diabetes, identifying low blood sugar early is crucial to prevent further complications.

What is Considered Dangerously Low Blood Sugar?

Understanding 'blood sugar how low is too low' is critical to managing and preventing severe hypoglycemia. Severe low blood sugar is considered when levels drop below 54 mg/dL. At this stage, the individual may experience more serious symptoms, such as difficulty walking or seeing clearly, confusion, and even seizures.

In such cases, immediate treatment is required. If left untreated, severely low blood sugar may lead to loss of consciousness, coma, or even death. It's essential that if you or someone around you is experiencing symptoms of severe hypoglycemia, immediate medical help is sought.

Understanding the intricacies of blood sugar levels can help you better manage your health, especially if you have diabetes. At ProMed DME, we're committed to providing the necessary education to help you navigate these challenges and maintain optimal health.

Causes of Low Blood Sugar

There are several factors that can lead to low blood sugar, and understanding these causes can be a critical step in preventing dangerous lows.

Insufficient Insulin and Rapid Glucose Usage

Our bodies need a balance of insulin and glucose to function properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps our cells absorb glucose and use it for energy. However, when we don't eat enough carbohydrates or when we're physically active, our bodies may use up glucose rapidly, causing our blood sugar levels to drop. This is especially common in people with type 1 diabetes, who must carefully match their insulin doses to their food intake and physical activity.

Excessive Insulin in the Bloodstream

On the flip side, injecting too much insulin or taking certain diabetes medications can lead to an excess of insulin in our bodies, causing our blood sugar to drop too low. This can also happen if we accidentally inject insulin directly into the muscle instead of under the skin. The timing of insulin doses is also important, as taking insulin at the wrong times can also lead to low blood sugar.

Certain Medical Conditions and Medications

Apart from diabetes and its related medications, certain medical conditions can also cause low blood sugar. These include severe illnesses affecting the liver, kidneys, or heart. Some treatments like surgery or dialysis can also cause blood sugar to drop. If you've had diabetes for a long time or frequently experience low blood sugar, you may be at greater risk.

Alcohol Consumption and its Impact on Blood Sugar Levels

Drinking alcohol, especially on an empty stomach or in large amounts, can interfere with your liver's ability to produce glucose, causing your blood sugar to drop. It's important to have a meal when drinking alcohol to help prevent this.

At ProMed DME, we understand the importance of maintaining a balanced blood sugar level. We offer reliable Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) devices like the Dexcom G6 and Dexcom G7, which can alert you when your blood sugar is too low, helping you manage your blood sugar more effectively.

Knowledge is power. Understanding the causes of low blood sugar can help you take steps to prevent it and maintain your health.

Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

Understanding the symptoms of low blood sugar is crucial in managing your health effectively. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and being aware of your own specific reactions is key in quickly addressing hypoglycemia.

Common Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

When your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range (below 70 mg/dL), your body reacts in various ways. Common symptoms include:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger

These symptoms are your body's way of alerting you that your blood sugar is too low and requires immediate attention.

However, note that your reaction to low blood sugar may not be the same as someone else's. The way you experience these symptoms may differ based on various factors like how long you've had diabetes, your age, and your overall health status.

Hypoglycemic Unawareness: When There Are No Symptoms

In some cases, individuals may experience hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition where they don't feel or notice any symptoms, even when their blood sugar is low. Hypoglycemia unawareness can be particularly dangerous as it delays treatment, increasing the risk of severe lows, which can be life-threatening.

This condition is more common in people who have had diabetes for a long time (more than 5-10 years), frequently have low blood sugar, or take certain medications like beta-blockers for high blood pressure.

If you fall into any of these categories, it's important to check your blood sugar more frequently, especially before driving or engaging in physical activity. Using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can be particularly helpful in these cases as it can alert you if your blood sugar levels are falling too low.

Nighttime Low Blood Sugar: Causes and Symptoms

Nighttime low blood sugar is another aspect to be aware of. While hypoglycemia can occur at any time, many people experience low blood sugar during sleep due to factors such as having an active day, being physically active close to bedtime, taking too much insulin, or drinking alcohol at night.

Symptoms of nighttime low blood sugar may include sweating, nightmares, or waking up with a headache. If you notice these signs or suspect you're at risk for overnight hypoglycemia, consider having a snack before bed and discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider.

Recognizing the symptoms of low blood sugar is the first step in taking control of your health. At ProMed DME, we're dedicated to providing the information and tools you need to manage your blood sugar effectively. Stay informed, stay safe, we're here to support you every step of the way.

How to Monitor and Detect Low Blood Sugar Levels

Recognizing the symptoms of low blood sugar is critical, but it's equally important to regularly check your blood sugar levels and take preventative measures. This is especially crucial if you frequently experience hypoglycemia or have been living with diabetes for more than 5-10 years.

The Importance of Regular Blood Sugar Checks

Regular blood glucose monitoring is your first line of defense against hypoglycemia. It provides insights into how your lifestyle choices — including diet, exercise, and medication — impact your blood glucose levels. This information helps you and your healthcare team make informed decisions to keep your blood sugar within a safe range.

You should be checking your blood sugar more often during periods of change, such as a new insulin routine, a different work schedule, an increase in physical activity, or travel across time zones. It's also essential to check before and after meals, before and after exercise, and before bed. If you've been physically active, it's worth checking your blood sugar levels in the middle of the night too.

The Role of Continuous Glucose Monitors

At ProMed DME, we understand that managing diabetes involves more than just lifestyle changes. That's why we offer advanced tools like Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs). A CGM is a device that provides real-time updates on your blood glucose levels, allowing you to see if you're trending high or low. This immediate feedback helps you make more informed decisions about food, exercise, and medication, leading to better overall diabetes management.

CGMs, like the Dexcom G6 and Dexcom G7, are known for their exceptional accuracy. These devices can alert you when your blood sugar is too low or too high, helping you take preventative measures to avoid potentially life-threatening complications.

With regular blood sugar checks and the help of a CGM, you can effectively monitor and manage your blood sugar levels, helping you avoid dangerously low levels. At ProMed DME, we're here for you every step of the way, offering solutions and support to help you live a more fulfilling and active life with diabetes.

Treating Low Blood Sugar

When it comes to the question of 'blood sugar how low is too low', the answer largely depends on the individual's body and their response to low blood sugar levels. However, it's universally important to act quickly once low blood sugar levels are detected. Let's dive into some practical steps you can take to treat hypoglycemia.

The 15/15 Rule: A Quick Response to Low Blood Sugar

An effective way to address low blood sugar, specifically for levels between 55 and 69 mg/dL, is by following what is known as the 15/15 rule. This rule involves consuming 15 grams of carbohydrates and then checking your blood sugar levels after 15 minutes. If the levels remain below your target range, repeat the process.

Items that roughly equate to 15 grams of carbs include:

  • 4 ounces (½ cup) of juice or regular soda
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or syrup
  • Hard candies, jellybeans, or gumdrops
  • 3-4 glucose tablets or 1 dose of glucose gel

It takes time for blood sugar to rise after eating, so be patient and give the treatment time to work.

When to Use Glucagon

For severely low blood sugar levels, those under 55 mg/dL, the 15/15 rule won't suffice. In this case, injectable glucagon can be a lifesaver. Glucagon is a hormone that stimulates your liver to release stored glucose into your bloodstream when your blood sugar levels are too low.

If someone faints due to severely low blood sugar, they should receive a glucagon injection. If they don't regain consciousness within 15 minutes, they should receive another dose. It's important to contact a doctor for emergency medical treatment immediately after a glucagon injection.

At ProMed DME, we recommend speaking with your healthcare provider about whether you should have a glucagon kit, and if so, how and when to use it.

The Importance of Having a Fast-Acting Sugar Source Available

Once your blood sugar is back in the target range, it's crucial to prevent it from dropping again. Start with a fast-acting source of sugar, like a regular soft drink or fruit juice. Then, have a long-acting source of sugar, such as crackers and cheese or a sandwich with meat.

Knowing how to treat low blood sugar effectively is a key part of managing diabetes. At ProMed DME, we're dedicated to providing you with the knowledge and tools you need to manage your blood sugar levels effectively. From continuous glucose monitoring to personalized advice, we're here to support you every step of the way.

Preventing Low Blood Sugar

One of the most important aspects of managing diabetes is preventing low blood sugar episodes. Understanding the key factors that can cause blood sugar levels to drop and implementing strategies to keep levels within a safe range are critical. Here, we will discuss how adjusting medication and meal timing, maintaining a regular eating schedule, and balancing exercise with your other diabetes management strategies can help prevent low blood sugar.

Adjusting Medication and Meal Timing

One common cause of low blood sugar is taking too much insulin or taking insulin and not eating right away. This can cause your blood sugar to drop too low, leading to hypoglycemia. Adjusting the dosage and timing of your insulin can help prevent this. If you're experiencing frequent episodes of low blood sugar, it might be time to review your insulin regimen with your healthcare provider. It's important to remember to eat a balanced meal shortly after taking insulin to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

The Role of Regular Meals and Snacks

Maintaining a regular eating schedule can also help prevent low blood sugar. When you skip meals or don't eat for extended periods, your body uses up the glucose it has stored for energy, which can cause your blood sugar levels to drop. Consuming regular meals and snacks can keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. This is particularly important at night, as skipping dinner or going to bed on an empty stomach can lead to nighttime low blood sugar.

Exercise and its Impact on Blood Sugar Levels

Physical activity is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle and is especially important for individuals managing diabetes. Exercise can help regulate your blood sugar levels by increasing the body's sensitivity to insulin and helping the body use glucose more efficiently. However, it's important to balance your activity with your insulin dose and carbohydrate intake. Too much exercise without adequate food intake or insulin can cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low. Regular monitoring of your blood glucose levels, especially before and after exercise, can help you maintain a safe range and prevent hypoglycemia.

At ProMed DME, we understand the challenges of managing diabetes and preventing low blood sugar. That's why we offer high-quality continuous glucose monitors and other medical supplies to help you manage your condition effectively. We're here to support you every step of the way in your journey to better health. Stay proactive, stay informed, and stay healthy.

When to Seek Medical Help

Understanding when to seek medical help is crucial when managing low blood sugar. Let's dive into how to recognize severe low blood sugar, the importance of informing your family and friends about hypoglycemia, and when to consult your healthcare provider.

Recognizing Severe Low Blood Sugar and When to Call for Emergency Help

Severe low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is when your blood sugar levels fall below 54 mg/dL. If your blood sugar gets this low, you may experience more serious symptoms such as weakness, difficulty walking or seeing clearly, confusion, or even seizures.

In some cases, you may become unresponsive or faint. If you have a glucagon kit, a glucagon injection should be administered right away. If you don't wake up within 15 minutes after the injection, a second dose should be given. If no glucagon is available, or if a second dose has been administered and you remain unresponsive, it's crucial to call 911 immediately.

The Importance of Informing Family and Friends About Hypoglycemia

It's vital to educate your family, friends, and caretakers about the signs of low blood sugar and what to do if you become unresponsive. Not only can they provide immediate assistance by administering glucagon, but they can also call for emergency medical help if needed.

If you're living with diabetes or prone to hypoglycemia, make sure to share your symptoms with your loved ones and instruct them on how to use a continuous glucose monitor. This can help them monitor your blood sugar levels and intervene when necessary.

Consulting a Healthcare Provider for Frequent or Consistent Low Blood Sugar

If you're frequently experiencing low blood sugar, consult with your healthcare provider. Frequent bouts of hypoglycemia can indicate that your insulin dosage, meal timing, or physical activity levels need adjustment.

Your healthcare provider may want to review your blood sugar logs and make changes to your diabetes management plan. They may also suggest a continuous glucose monitor to help track your blood sugar levels more accurately.

At ProMed DME, we understand that managing blood sugar levels can be complex. That's why we offer a range of medical supplies, including continuous glucose monitors, to help you stay on top of your health. When it comes to blood sugar, understanding 'how low is too low' is crucial for your wellbeing.


Understanding 'blood sugar how low is too low' is a vital part of managing your health, especially if you have a condition like diabetes. Regular monitoring and awareness of symptoms can help you to avoid dangerous lows and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Our body's response to glucose can vary greatly, and what works for one person may not work for another.

At ProMed DME, we believe in empowering you with knowledge and tools for optimal health. We offer continuous glucose monitoring devices that can provide real-time insights, helping you to manage your blood sugar effectively and avoid potential hypoglycemia events.

Additionally, our team of experts is always ready to provide personalized care, support, and advice. If you're experiencing frequent or consistent low blood sugar, or if you have any concerns about your blood glucose levels, don't hesitate to contact us. We're here to help you navigate your health journey and ensure you're on the right track.

Maintaining control of your blood sugar levels is not just about preventing lows. It's about enhancing your quality of life, reducing the risk of complications, and ensuring that you can live your life to the fullest.

We encourage you to continue learning about your health, and to use the resources available to you, like our comprehensive resource center. Together, we can ensure you're not just surviving, but thriving.

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As difficult as managing your blood sugar levels can be, you're not alone. We're here to support you every step of the way.

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