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Managing your child’s hypos

A hypo happens when blood glucose levels drop below 4mmol/L. If left untreated, hypos can be dangerous, but the good news is they’re simple to treat and there is technology available to help you see when one is about to happen.
Content last reviewed and updated: 15.08.2023

A mother checking her son's blood glucose levels as part of managing her child's type 1 diabetes hypo

How can you tell if your child is having a hypo?

There are physical symptoms that you can see or you child can tell you about:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling anxious
  • Changes in behaviour like being irritable or confused

Often, very young children will describe these symptoms as feeling ‘funny’ or ‘different.’

With babies and toddlers and children who find it difficult to identify or say how they’re feeling, they may not be able to communicate these symptoms with you. However, using technology like continuous glucose monitors or flash glucose monitors can help. With these devices you can set alarms which signal when your child’s glucose levels are dropping too low. Similarly, you can also set alarms which tell you when they’re glucose levels are going too high (although you may sometimes have to check these readings with a blood glucose meter).

Find out more about how type 1 technology can help you and your child.

How do you treat a hypo?

You treat a hypo simply – by eating glucose (sugar).

Jelly babies, glucose tablets and drinks or a sugary drink like orange juice are recommended for treating hypos because the glucose (sugar) gets into the blood stream quickly. Other food, like chocolate, may be high in sugar but the amount of fat slows down the absorption of sugar, so they won’t raise blood glucose levels as quickly.

Talk to your child’s Diabetes Healthcare Team about how much glucose they recommend to treat your child’s hypos. Everyone’s body is different, and this will change as your child grows, so how much carbohydrate they need to bring their blood glucose level up may change.

Act quickly

Hypos need to be treated as quickly as possible. If left untreated, they can be dangerous, so make sure your child always has their treatment with them. They can carry some in their bag or have them stored in a safe, easily accessible place at home, nursery or school.

If their blood glucose is below 4mmol/L give them their hypo treatment straight away.

Check their blood glucose with a finger-prick check level. Even if you use a CGM or flash, you will need to check the readings you get with blood glucose meter because it gives you the most accurate reading.

If your child uses an insulin pump you will also need to suspend the delivery of insulin to stop your child’s glucose levels dropping even more. Speak to your Diabetes Healthcare Team about how to do this.

How are hypos treated when your child is at nursery or school or with another caregiver?

If your child is at nursery, pre-school or school, there should be an Individual Healthcare Plan (ICHP) in place. This should cover what to do if your child has a hypo and which staff members have been trained to treat them.

Find out more about IHCPs in nursery and schools.

For anyone else who’s looking after your child you can share our hypos kit with them. You can fill this in so that anyone looking after your child knows what to do if your child has a hypo, where their treatment will be stored, and what to do in an emergency.

What should you do in an emergency?

If your child is unconscious, do not give them anything to eat or drink. If your Diabetes Healthcare Team has given you glucose gel, apply it as instructed.

Call 999 if you are in any doubt about what to do. You should also seek urgent medical attention if:

  • They’re vomiting
  • They have a high temperature
  • They have stomach pains
  • Their blood glucose levels remain low after two treatments
  • Symptoms deteriorate
  • The child becomes increasingly lethargic
  • They’re unresponsive or lose consciousness

What to do after your child has had a hypo

Once your child’s glucose levels have returned to the normal level they should eat a snack with starchy carbohydrate in it like bread, potatoes or pasta.

What is hypo unawareness?

Hypo unawareness is when someone with type 1 doesn’t have the usual symptoms of hypo and can’t tell if one is starting.

If your child’s glucose levels are dropping below 4 mmol/L regularly (more than three to four lows in a week, or less if they are newly diagnosed) speak to your Diabetes Healthcare Team as soon as possible as you may need a possible adjustment to their insulin dosage.

Technology like continuous glucose monitors or flash glucose monitors can help because they can alert you when your child’s glucose is going low.

How do you reduce the risk of hypos?

Monitoring your child’s glucose levels throughout the day and night will help you see when their levels are going low. Technology like CGM and flash can help, because they give you a reading and tell you whether your child’s glucose levels are stable, rising or falling.

Find out more about type 1 tech and what might be available to you and your child.

Other topics in this section

Read more

Managing your child’s blood glucose levels

Learn about blood glucose levels, how they’re measured, what affects them, how to check them – and what you should do if they are too high or low.

Read more

Managing your child’s hypers

Hypers don’t hold an immediate risk to your child’s health like hypos do, but they can make them feel unwell and can be serious if they’re not treated.

Read more

Carb counting for a child with type 1

Learn how to count carbs, understand the different types of carbs and how to guage how much insulin to take.

Read more

Working with your child’s healthcare team

Your child will be seen regularly by a team of diabetes specialists. Learn about the different professionals involved and how to best work with them.