April News - Understanding Diabetes

Continuing our series of first aid advice for different medical conditions, in April we are looking at diabetes.   According to Diabetes UK more people than ever have diabetes, if nothing changes, more than five million people will have diabetes in the UK by 2025.  That’s 1 in every 16 people in the UK.

About diabetes

Usually our bodies automatically maintain the right blood sugar levels, but for someone with diabetes their body doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate their blood sugar level. So they have to control their blood sugar themselves by carefully monitoring what they eat and taking insulin via injections or pills.

Sometimes people who have diabetes may have a diabetic emergency, where their blood sugar becomes either too high or too low. Both conditions are possibly serious and may need treatment in hospital.

Not enough insulin can cause high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia). The person can slowly become unresponsive (called going into a diabetic coma.) You should seek medical help straight away.

Symptoms to look out for

If you think someone may be having a diabetic emergency, check these symptoms:-

• Warm, dry skin

• Rapid pulse and rapid breathing

• Fruit-smelling, sweet breath

• Really thirsty

• Drowsiness, leading to unresponsiveness if not treated

Call 999 straight away for medical help and say that you suspect hyperglycaemia.

What you can do

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 unconscious.

The other type of diabetic emergency is caused by too much insulin which can cause low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia (hypo).  This may happen when someone with diabetes skips a meal or does too much exercise. It might also happen after someone has had an epileptic seizure (see our January advice for dealing with seizures)

If the person knows they are diabetic, they may recognise the start of a hypo attack, but without help they may quickly become weak and unresponsive.  Check if they have these symptoms:-

•  Weakness, feeling faint or hungry

•  Confusion and irrational behaviour

•  Sweating with cold, clammy skin

•  Rapid pulse

•  Trembling

•  Worsening level of response

Also look to see if they are wearing a medical warning bracelet or have medication such as an insulin pen (or tablets) and a glucose testing kit.

Help them sit down. If they have their own glucose gel, ask if they need help taking it. If they do not, you will need to give them something sugary like a fruit juice, a fizzy drink, three teaspoons of sugar or sugary sweets.

If they improve swiftly, then give them more sugary food or drink and let them rest. If they have their glucose testing kit with them, ask if they would like help to use it to check their glucose level. Stay with them until they feel completely better.

If they do not improve quickly, look for any other causes and then call 999 for medical assistance.

While waiting, keep checking their responsiveness, breathing and pulse.

If you are uncertain whether their blood sugar is high or low give them something sugary anyway, as this will quickly relieve low blood sugar and is not likely to cause harm in cases of high blood sugar.

If they don’t make a rapid improvement then call 999 for medical assistance.

During 2018 we are focusing on different conditions that we need to be aware of as First Aiders.  In January we looked at seizures and what to do, in February we looked at heart health; both how to look after our hearts with 7 things to do to keep them healthy and what to do in the case of a heart attack.  In March we looked at strokes, what they are, what we can do to prevent them and what to do if we suspect someone is having a stroke.

Make 2018 the year you learn how to save a life.  Book onto a First Response First Aid course in your local area and learn about dealing with all types of medical emergency.  We get great reviews!

Why choose First Response? (First Aid) Ltd

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Well done team First Response (First Aid) Ltd and a big thank you goes out to our customers for providing us with so much positive feedback.

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