Dealing with Hyperglycaemia (High Blood Sugar)

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This leaflet is created from first aid advice provided by St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity. This advice is no substitute for first aid training - find a training course near you.

Too little insulin can cause high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia).

If it's not treated and gets worse, the person can gradually become unresponsive (going into a diabetic coma). So it's important to get them to see a doctor in case they need emergency treatment.

  • Warm, dry skin.
  • Rapid pulse and breathing.
  • Fruity sweet breath.
  • Really thirsty.
  • Drowsiness, leading to unresponsiveness if not treated.
  • Call 999 or 112 straightaway for medical help and say that you suspect hyperglycaemia.
  • While you wait for help to arrive, keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.
  • If they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to treat someone who's become unresponsive.

If you're not sure whether someone has high or low blood sugar, give them something sugary anyway, as this will quickly relieve low blood sugar and is unlikely to do harm in cases of high blood sugar.

If they don't improve quickly, call 999 or 112 for medical help.

If they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to treat someone who's become unresponsive.

Note: these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid. St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.

Adapted from the St John Ambulance leaflet: diabetic emergency. Copyright for this leaflet is with St John Ambulance.

Now read about Assessment of the Patient with Established Diabetes

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Author:
St John Ambulance
Peer Reviewer:
St John Ambulance
Document ID:
28678 (v2)
Last Checked:
21 November 2016
Next Review:
21 November 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.