Hypo is short for hypoglycaemia, which means low blood glucose level. Maintaining your blood glucose level is a balance between the glucose that you take in (from food) and the glucose that you store or use up as energy.

Hypos can be caused by:

  • Missed or late meals
  • Not enough food/missing starchy foods
  • More activity than normal
  • Alcohol
  • Hot weather
  • Poor condition of injection sites

What does a hypo feel like?

The way you feel when your blood glucose level is low varies from person to person, you will recognise your own warning signs, which might include:

  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Wobbly and confused
  • Headache
  • Tingling lips or tongue
  • You may have no symptoms
  •  If you test your blood glucose it will be less than 4mmol/l

Other people around you might notice that you are:

  • Pale
  • Slurring your words
  • Acting strangely
  • Look “drunk”

Treating a hypo

As soon as you feel that you may be going into a hypo, you should stop what you are doing and take one of the following quick acting sugars, such as:

  • 200 ml of Lucozade™
  • 150 ml (a small can) of non-diet fizzy drink
  • 200 ml (a small carton) of smooth orange juice
  • Five or six dextrose tablets

If you do not feel better and your blood glucose level is still less than 4 mmol/l after ten minutes, repeat one of these treatments. When you start to feel better, if you are not due to eat a meal, you will need to eat some starchy food, such as a snack e.g. two plain biscuits or a slice of toast and monitor your blood glucose again afterwards. 

If you feel hypo before your insulin: you need to correct your ‘hypo’ and then have your insulin and meal as normal.

When not at home always carry some form of sugar with you, like dextrose sweets. You should start to feel better after about ten minutes. If you don’t, take one of the above again.

Urgent alert

Occasionally you may not spot your warning signs and you may pass out (become unconscious). Explain to your family and friends that if they find you unconscious they will need to:

•    Call 999 immediately for an ambulance.

•    Do not give an unconscious or semi-conscious person anything by mouth as they may choke.


Always carry identification on you that says you have diabetes.


You may have heard about an injection called glucagon. This comes in a kit form and can be easily given to you by a friend or family member if you pass out due to low blood glucose level. Many people with diabetes do not need to have these kits at home. For more information about glucagon kits contact your diabetes specialist nurse.

Please note:

  • If you are having frequent hypos or want more information contact your diabetes team.
  • Hypos may well affect your safety whilst driving; for further information contact your diabetes team or consult the Gov.uk website page on diabetes and driving


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Further information 

NHS 111 
Tel: 111

Diabetes UK
Online: http://www.diabetes.org.uk

North West Diabetes UK                
Tel: 01925 653281
Email: n.west@diabetes.org.uk