The NDSS is administered by Diabetes Australia

Managing hypoglycaemia

When you have diabetes, you might get hypoglycaemia, or low blood glucose levels, called hypo for short.

Here’s what you need to know about hypos and how to manage them.

What is ahypo?

A hypo is when your blood glucose levels drop below 4 mmol/L.

Hypos can happen to anyone with diabetes who uses insulin. Hypos are common.

Hypos can be caused by things like:

Missing meals
Not eating enough carbohydrates, also known as carbs
Being more active than usual

Taking more insulin than you need

Being unwell with vomiting and/or diarrhoea

Sometimes, there’s no obvious reason

Learn more about managing hypos

Why is it important to treat a hypo?

It’s important to treat a hypo quickly to stop your blood glucose levels from dropping even lower. If you don’t treat hypos, they can be dangerous. It’s something people with diabetes often worry about, so it’s good to know what to do.

Always carry a hypo treatment with you. Let your family, friends, and teachers know how to recognise and treat hypos.

Hypos can be mild, moderate, or severe. Knowing the different stages is important so you know how to treat them. And it’s important to tell others about the different stages of low blood glucose levels, as you may need their help.

Different stages of a hypo

A mild hypo

is when you’re conscious and can think clearly enough to self-treat your hypo by checking your blood glucose levels and eating or drinking fast-acting carbs.

A moderate hypo

is when you’re still conscious but may not be thinking clearly. You can usually still self-treat your hypo and follow your hypo action plan.

A severe (very low) hypo

means you might not be well enough to treat the hypo yourself. You might be drowsy or even unconscious, so you might need someone else to help with your hypo action plan. This is why it’s important to share your hypo action plan with family, friends, your teacher, or sports coach so they know what to do if you’re having a hypo.

A hypo can feel different for everyone. Over time, you’ll learn how your body reacts to a hypo. It’s good to know the early symptoms so you can treat it quickly. Let others know about your symptoms so they can help if needed.

Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

Remember, it’s essential to know these symptoms and take action to treat your hypo straight away. Always keep your hypo kit close by and tell your friends, teachers, and family members how they can help if you have a hypo.
Feeling weak, shaky, or like you’re trembling
Sweating more than usual
Getting lightheaded or dizzy
Having a headache
Struggling to concentrate or noticing changes in your behaviour
Feeling grumpy, teary, or wanting to cry
Feeling very hungry
Feeling tingling or numbness in your lips, tongue, or cheeks
Having a fast heartbeat

Having blurry vision

Hypo help

When you have a hypo, it’s important to have a plan so you can act quickly to raise your blood glucose levels. It’s easy to remember by saying… CARE

1. Check you're safe!

Check you’re in a safe place. If you’re doing something like riding a bike or playing sports, stop what you’re doing and find a safe spot.

2. Act!

Quickly eat or drink something with fast-acting carbs, like:

  • 15 grams (g) of glucose tablets OR
  • 6-7 regular jellybeans OR
  • 1 tube of oral glucose gel equal to 15 g of carbs OR
  • Half a can (150 mL) of regular (not diet) soft drink OR
  • 100 mL of Lucozade® OR
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar or honey OR
  • Half a glass (125 mL) of fruit juice.

3. Recheck blood glucose levels

After 15 minutes, recheck your blood glucose level to make sure they’ve gone above 4 mmol/L. If they haven’t, repeat step 2 and check again after another 15 minutes.

4. Evaluate!

If your next meal is more than 15-20 minutes away and your blood glucose level is above 4 mmol/L, eat something with longer-lasting carbs, like:

  • 1 slice of bread or
  • 1 glass (250 mL) of milk or soymilk or
  • 1 piece of fruit or
  • 4 dried apricots or
  • 1 tablespoon of sultanas or
  • small tub (100 g) of fruit yogurt.

Remember, it's always best to talk to your doctor, diabetes nurse practitioner, or diabetes educator for advice on treating hypos as you may need more or less than these suggested snack ideas.

Treating a severe hypo

If hypos aren’t treated quickly, they can get worse, and your blood glucose level can get very low. If your blood glucose levels become too low, you may end up having a severe hypo.

It’s super important for your family and friends to know what to do if you have really low blood glucose levels (called a severe hypo) and become unconscious. They shouldn’t give you any food or drink since you won’t be able to swallow it.

They need to act fast to help you!

Here's what friends and family should do:


Lay you into the recovery position: Lay you on your side and check that your airway is clear.


Don't give you any food or drink.


Give you a glucagon injection if there's one available and someone knows how to use it. The glucagon injection is in a bright orange box.


Call 000 for an ambulance and wait with you until it arrives. It's recommended to call for an ambulance even if you’re no longer unconscious, have had a glucagon injection, and your blood glucose levels rise. If no one knows how to use the glucagon injection, the ambulance operator may tell the person on the phone how to use it.

Tips for keeping safe

Glucagon should be part of your hypo action plan.

Always keep in-date glucagon injection at home and in your hypo kit.

It’s important for people close to you to know how to inject glucagon in case you’re drowsy or unconscious.

It’s important to talk to your diabetes health professionals. If you’re having hypos or some really bad ones, they can help you work through some changes.

It’s a smart idea to keep track of your hypos to see if there are any trends or patterns. This info can help your diabetes health professionals find the best management for your diabetes.

Treating a hypo

Treating a hypo quickly is important to stop your blood glucose level from going too low. Here are some tips to stay safe and manage hypos.

Know your hypo symptoms:

Each person feels a hypo differently. Pay attention to your body and learn your unique symptoms. Talk about your hypos with your diabetes health professional.

Have a hypo kit ready:

Always carry a hypo kit with you. Make sure your family, friends, school staff, and other people around you know how to recognise and treat hypos.

Stay safe:

Find somewhere safe with others. Don’t ride a bike, climb a tree, or do anything dangerous if your blood glucose level is under 5 mmol/L. It’s important to keep yourself and others safe.

Get advice:

Talk to your doctor, diabetes nurse practitioner, or diabetes educator about how to treat, manage, and lower your chances of having hypos. They can give you personalised advice and support.

Hypo emergency:

If you experience a hypo and the treatment is not working or your feel you are getting drowsy ask someone to ring 000.

Pack your hypo kit

When you have diabetes, it’s smart to always be ready for a hypo. A hypo kit is a cool little bag or box filled with everything you need to treat a hypo super-fast. Remember to keep it stocked so you always have the supplies you need.

Let’s see what you should pack in your very own hypo kit.

These help raise your blood glucose level quickly. Pack 2 or 3 of these in your kit:

  • jellybeans (a small bag)
  • glucose tablets or gels (pre-packaged portions of 15 g)
  • non-diet soft drinks or fruit juice (small bottle or box).
  • blood glucose meter
  • strips
  • lancet device.

After treating a hypo, you might need a snack to keep your blood glucose steady. Here are some ideas:

  • a sandwich
  • 1 piece of fruit (like an apple or banana)
  • 1 muesli bar
  • 1 small tub of yogurt (100g) or 1 cup of milk (200ml)
  • 5 water crackers.

Managing fear of hypoglycaemia

Hypo quiz

Check your knowledge!

This information is intended as a guide only. It should not replace individual medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health, or further questions, you should contact your health professional.