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Hypoglycemia (also known as a hypo, insulin shock, and a low) is brought on by abnormally low levels of glucose in the blood (i.e., 70 mg/dl or less). The condition is common among children with type 1 diabetes, but may also occur less frequently in children or teens with type 2 diabetes who are taking a sulfonylurea drug. An inadequate diet, improperly calculated insulin dose, minor illnesses, or excessive activity without adequate sustenance can contribute to the condition. If unchecked, hypoglycemia can lead to unconsciousness. In very rare cases, the victim may suffer a seizure.
A hypoglycemic child will appear irritable, sweaty, shaky, and confused and may complain of being very hungry. In most cases, a snack of quick-acting carbohydrates (e.g., juice or hard candy) will remedy the situation. Glucose tablets or gel can also be taken. A child who has lost consciousness due to hypoglycemia may require a glucagon shot to return blood sugar levels to normal.
Newborns of women with gestational, type 1, or type 2 diabetes during pregnancy may also experience hypoglycemia at birth, particularly if the mother's blood glucose levels were not well controlled in late pregnancy. High levels of maternal glucose cause the fetus to generate equally high levels of insulin to handle the over-load, and when the maternal glucose source is disconnected at birth with the cutting of the umbilical cord, all of that insulin causes the newborn's blood sugar levels to plummet. Intravenous administration of a glucose solution to the newborn can help re-establish normal blood sugar levels.
A rare type of hypoglycemia, known as reactive hypoglycemia, may occur in children and teens without diabetes. In reactive hypoglycemia, blood glucose levels drop to 70 mg/dl approximately four hours after a meal is eaten, causing the same symptoms of low blood sugars that can occur in people with diabetes.
Also rare is fasting hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugars are 50 mg/dl or lower after an over-night fast or between meals. Certain medications and medical conditions can cause this problem in children who do not have diabetes.
Among children with diabetes, hypoglycemia is much more common in those with type 1 diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes) than in those with type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes).
Author Info: Paula Ford-Martin, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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