A diabetic emergency occurs when there is a severe imbalance between the amount of insulin and sugar in the body.
Two conditions may result in a diabetic emergency:
- Not enough insulin, causing a high level of sugar or hyperglycemia.This could lead to diabetic coma. This may be caused by:
- a) not taking enough insulin
- b) eating too much food
- c) doing less exercise than usual
- Too much insulin, causing a low level of sugar or hypoglycemia.This may lead to insulin shock. This may be caused by:
- a) taking too much insulin
- b) not eating enough food or vomiting
- c) doing more exercise than usual
How to recognize a diabetic emergency
A conscious casualty with diabetes might be able to tell you what is wrong. However, keep in mind that the person may be confused.
An unconscious casualty may be wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace that will tell you that he/she has diabetes.
If the casualty cannot tell you what he/she needs, look for the following signs & symptoms:
|Pulse||strong and rapid||weak and rapid|
|Breathing||shallow||deep and sighing|
|Skin||pale and sweating||flushed, dry and warm|
|Breath odour||odourless||like musty apple or nail polish|
|LOC||faintness to unconsciousness developing quickly||gradual onset of unconsciousness|
|Other signs and symptoms||headache
First Aid for a diabetic emergency
The first aid for insulin shock and diabetic coma is the same:
Begin scene survey
- If the casualty is unresponsive, get medical help immediately.
- Do a primary survey and give first aid for life-threatening conditions.
- Place the unconscious person into the recovery position and monitor the ABC’s until medical help can take over (Airway- to ensure a clear airway, Breathing- to ensure effective breathing, Circulation- to ensure effective circulation)
- Look for a medical alert device that will give you more information about the casualty’s condition.
If the casualty is conscious and knows what is wrong:
- Assist him/her to take what is needed – sugar or her prescribed medication
If the casualty is confused about what is required:
- Give him/her something to eat or drink and get medical help.