When it comes to treating low blood sugars, portion control is everything for us. Now that Kaitlyn is doing a lot of the treatment for her type 1 diabetes on her own, it’s especially important. She’s getting pretty good at recognizing her lows and checking her continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to see where she’s at all throughout the day. Oftentimes, she’ll tell me that she was low but that she already took care of it.
Low blood sugar is not really a scary thing for us anymore—it’s just kind of an occasional fact of life. We see it, treat it, and move on. In fact, it’s rare that we will have a day that she will stay completely out of the “red zone.” Luckily, we have really good tools that help us keep these lows to a minimum. The only really tricky part of treating lows for us is using the right amount of sugar. The goal is to use just the right amount to get her back in range. Using too much sugar will shoot her up too high. Then battling those high numbers will often bring her down too low again, and the cycle continues.
I think that too often we react rashly to low numbers. We have to remember that our doctors give specific instructions for treating low blood sugar for a reason. When my mom first started watching Kaitlyn and she experienced a low, she would give Kaitlyn a juice box, then some peaches, then a piece of bread… She would go into better-safe-than-sorry mode and give her a lot of food, just in case. Of course, Kaitlyn would go too high afterward.
Another problem we have is that we’ll get lazy and not measure out the sugar properly. My husband is notorious for this. He would be up in the middle of the night and instead of finding the juice boxes in the cupboard to treat a low, he would just grab the caramel syrup out of the fridge and squirt a random amount in Kaitlyn’s mouth. Not a good idea!
Here are some tips we’ve learned for successful blood sugar boosters:
Find the right type of sugar.
It has to be something that is approved by your doctor, which is usually any type of fast-acting sugar. Our doctor has said that for us, most fruity candies, juice, soda, frosting, syrup, or glucose tabs are generally okay. Chocolate candies or baked goods are typically too slow.
Make sure it’s in convenient portion sizes.
We go out of our way to find the juice boxes in the smaller size. The regular-sized juice boxes are too large for Kaitlyn. If she drinks the whole thing, she always goes too high. Instead, we get the little ones with 15 carb grams per box. I just about had a heart attack when our local store stopped carrying them for a short time. As for candies—try to choose things that are easy to portion out, like the kind that come in bite-size pieces.
Mix it up and make it fun.
Fast-acting sugar is medicine for these kids, but there’s no reason why it can’t also be fun. Kaitlyn actually likes the glucose tabs, but we try to get a variety of candies and juice so that she doesn’t get so bored of having the same thing over and over. We like juice boxes for nighttime, because they’re easy to give while she’s still sleeping and a bit easier on her teeth. Other than that, we let her choose!
Good luck in finding the right blood sugar boost for you and your family!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.