Hypos, hypers and self-care

young boy with head in hands looking dejected

A hypo or low BGL happens when your level drops below 4mmol/L. When this happens you might feel:

  • Sweaty
  • Shaky
  • Sleepy
  • Cross
  • Weak
  • Like it’s hard to concentrate
  • Have a headache
  • Emotional

Everyone is different, you need to know how you feel when you have a hypo. Hypos can be caused by different things, like:

  • Exercise or sport
  • Not eating enough at meals
  • Skipping meals
  • Too much insulin
  • Stress or anxiety

Sometimes you can have a hypo for no reason at all!

Common times for hypos are just before recess or lunch and during and after sport, but remember they can happen at any time. When you have a hypo you need to quickly eat or drink something sweet straight away like:

  • 125 – 200ml fruit juice (1 small popper) or
  • 1/3 – ½ can regular soft drink (not diet) or
  • 3 teaspoons honey or sugar or
  • 4 large or 7 small jelly beans
  • Then eat something else to stop the hypo from coming back, like:
  • A piece of fruit or
  • A slice of bread or
  • Two plain sweet biscuits or
  • A glass of milk


If it’s just before recess, lunch or a meal, eat or drink something sweet then eat your meal. If you are using an insulin pump you may only need the quick acting treatment to manage a hypo. Talk to your diabetes educator, dietitian or doctor for more info.

Don’t forget to always carry hypo foods with you and always tell someone when you have a hypo. It’s important not to ignore a hypo even if you are worried about drawing attention to yourself or having everyone look at you. No one likes to be embarrassed, but ignoring a hypo can make you feel worse and can be more embarrassing if you don’t treat it.

Hypers & sick days

Sometimes your BGLs can go too high. This can be when you:

  • Feel sick or unwell
  • Are stressed, worried or excited
  • Are less active than usual
  • Eat more than usual
  • Don’t have enough insulin in your body (eg. you forgot your insulin injection or didn’t give the right dose)

Sometimes your BGLs can go high for no reason at all.

If your BGLs above 15mmol/L and you’re feeling OK, you can still do most of the things that your friends are doing, but it’s not a good idea to play really active sports like football until your BGL comes down. Drink plenty of water and do another test if you are not feeling well.

If your BGLs above 15mmol/L and you’re feeling sick, you might have ketones. High BGLs and ketones can make you really unwell and give you stomach pain, make you feel thirsty and want to go to the toilet a lot. This means that things are out of balance in your body.

When you feel like this, you need to let someone know, test your BGL more often, drink plenty of water and take some time out. When your BGLs are high and you have ketones, you need extra insulin – talk to your mum, dad or someone at home about what to do with your insulin dose. Remember you can call your diabetes educator about what to do for sick days.

If your BGL is above 15mmol/L you should test for ketones – whether you are feeling well or not!

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

High BGLs and ketones can lead to DKA, a very serious condition that occurs when there is not enough insulin and BGLs and ketones in the blood are extremely high. The blood becomes too acid, body fluid and salt levels become unbalanced, leading to dehydration. You can then feel sick, start vomiting, have severe stomach pain and feel very sleepy.

Ketoacidosis occurs when high BGLs, a high level of ketones and a lack of insulin have been present due to illness or missing insulin.
It is very important that you go straight to hospital for urgent treatment.

Self-care – dealing with diabetes

Ever felt like there’s too much stuff going on in your head? Or like everyone is carrying on about insulin injections and blood glucose levels, and all you want to do is shout “What about me?”

Feeling sad, angry and completely over diabetes is okay, in fact it’s pretty normal. But getting your head around having diabetes and working out ways to deal with it is important so that you can get on with enjoying your life.

Because diabetes usually comes out of the blue, you’re not prepared for it and your whole life’s turned upside down, so it’s normal to feel:

  • Angry
  • Sad
  • In Denial
  • Stressed
  • Guilty

You shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed to reach out or talk to someone. There are a lot of supportive people around you including your family, friends and health care professionals.

There are also online resources available that can help guide you to understand your emotions and seek further encouragement.


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