Fast-Acting Glucose

You remember the American Express commercial, “Don’t leave home without it”? After some recent experiences of three of my diabetic patients, I tell them the same thing about fast-acting glucose.


While driving recently, Susan felt her blood glucose drop. She searched for a store to buy some juice, but she was so shaky that she lost control of the car and drove into a tree. Fortunately, she was not hurt. Susan now carries a pack of glucose tablets for emergencies.


David’s car was in the shop, so he was taking the train to work. He had injected some insulin earlier but now believed he had taken too much. He tested his blood—it was 65 mg/dl. David usually keeps juice and snacks in his car, but he had nothing with him on the train. He figured he would just stop at the next station and grab a fast-acting carbohydrate, but before arriving there he passed out. Fortunately, a passenger on the train spotted his medical identification bracelet and called for help. David now carries fast-acting glucose in his pocket at all times.


Rhonda was hiking with her boyfriend and had finished her last granola bar several miles before. When she began walking very slowly, her friend guessed that her blood glucose might be low. Fortunately, he had some candy to share with her. Rhonda now keeps some fast-acting glucose in her backpack.

Fast-Acting Glucose—Small and Portable

Glucose tablets are small and portable and can help return your blood glucose level to a safe range within minutes.

Low blood glucose is considered anything less than 70 mg/dl or below your target range. If you experience hypoglycemic symptoms, always treat your suspected low, just to be safe.

To do this, try the following:

  1. Test your blood glucose level.
  2. If it’s low, take some fast-acting glucose (three glucose tablets or a 24-gram dose of a gel such as InstaGlucose).
  3. If you don’t have any fast-acting glucose handy, consume a fast-acting carbohydrate that contains 15 grams of carbohydrate (half a can of regular—not diet—soda, or half a cup of orange juice).
  4. Wait 15 minutes.
  5. Test again.
  6. If your glucose level is still low, repeat the treatment and test again in 15 minutes.

It is important to realize that hypoglycemic symptoms may last for a while after your blood glucose level has returned to normal. If you are unable to raise your level above 70 mg/dl, seek emergency assistance.

How Do You Know If You Need Fast-Acting Glucose?

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include

  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Tingling in the lips
  • Intense hunger
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Weakness and poor coordination
  • Paleness
  • Loss of concentration
  • Unconsciousness

Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia) Can Occur

  • If you take too much insulin or oral diabetes medication
  • If you don’t eat enough carbohydrate-containing foods to match your medication dose
  • When you are more physically active than usual
  • For no reason at all

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