Glucagon is an emergency treatment given to people with type 1 diabetes. It is used to treat very low blood sugar. Glucagon is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It raises blood sugar levels by causing the release of glucose from the liver. Similar to insulin, glucagon must be injected. When given, it raises blood sugar levels fast. Glucagon kits are available by prescription. Talk to your doctor about getting one.
When would you consider using glucagon? Glucagon is used when a very low blood sugar makes the person unable to function. At this time, the person may not be able to swallow or take food by mouth. Try to check the person's blood sugar to be sure it is low. Glucagon must be given by someone who has been trained. A family member or co-worker can be trained on how to give glucagon. If in doubt, glucagon should be given. If glucagon is not available when a very low blood sugar occurs, call 911 right away.
What happens after you use glucagon? In most cases, glucagon works within 15 minutes. If the person is out cold, keep the person on their side. That way if they vomit it will prevent choking. Once awake, give them sips of juice, clear liquids or regular soda. If the person keeps the liquids down, offer solid food. Be sure the person eats a meal with starches to prevent the blood sugar from dropping again.
If the person remains unaware or confused after 15 minutes, call 911 right away.
If low blood sugar has been caused by alcohol, do not treat with glucagon. Call 911 right away.
Some common causes of low blood sugar are lack of food, taking too much insulin, increase in exercise or alcohol use. When you have a low blood sugar always report this to your doctor.
Important things to remember
- Discuss with your doctor the proper treatment and prevention of low blood sugar. Ask your doctor for a prescription for glucagon.
- Make sure friends recognize signs and symptoms of low blood sugar.
- Instruct friends where to find the glucagon and how to use it.
- Make sure the glucagon is not expired. Glucagon is good for about two years. Replace any expired glucagon right away.
- Take glucagon with you when you are away from home.