Sugar, Baby!

Remember Sugar Babies? Are they even still around? With two kids in braces, our home won’t be seeing anything resembling those chocolate-and-caramel candies for quite some time. However, with a T1D teen in the house, we have plenty of alternatives. And so I started thinking of the pros and cons of all the different treatments we can choose.


SMARTIES. I have to single these out as they were the original treatment we learned about when Hannah was first diagnosed. “Two rolls of Smarties are 15 grams of carbs!” The perfect amount, cheap, easy to chew, and for a long time our treatment of choice. Eventually, Hannah grew tired of Smarties and I was anxious to keep things interesting. Also, the wrappers were everywhere and once the rolls break open…. still, they don’t get stale and are perfect for teachers to have on hand in the classroom as a backup.


JUICE. This was our first alternative to Smarties. You may find, as we did, that your child responds more quickly (i.e. blood sugar rises faster) to certain treatments. In Hannah’s case, juice is a good choice for a very low blood sugar. It’s also better at night, when she is tired, not hungry, and doesn’t want to eat anything. We look for brands that are in the 15-20g of carb range, though if she’s needing two juice boxes to treat a low then a higher carb juice on hand is nice. (Side note: Tropicana’s Trop 50 has less sugar, hence less carbs, which I like for the non-treatment occasion. Like breakfast.) Juice boxes or pouches do take up more room in a bag or purse, are heavier to carry, and can spill while open.

juice box

GLUCOSE TABS. It’d be nice to have a 15g glucose tablet, wouldn’t it? For some reason, they are about 4g of carbs each, so you need at least four tablets for an effective treatment. The big bottles are bulky, but you can also get them in a slimmer tube. We keep a bottle in Hannah’s nightstand. Kids aren’t as likely to overeat them and they work pretty quickly.

glucose tabs

OTHER CANDY. It’s not effective to use candy that contains fat, as the fat slows down the absorption rate.  This is why chocolate is not an option treating a low.  We also found out that just the 2g of fat in a pack of Skittles was keeping Hannah’s blood sugar from rising.  I do like saving Halloween candy as a treatment …. the variety is fun and really, diabetes needs to lighten up, right?  Of course, the downside to treating with candy is having a kid eating too much at once, instead of just the amount needed to treat a low.  With many lows, a kid could potentially eat candy all day long.

Sometimes we get the large container of Jelly Bellies or other tiny jelly beans (1g of carb each) and I’ll portion out 15 jelly beans in plastic zipper bags.  This is better than having a shaky kid reach her hand in the jar and frantically grab a handful!  If I’m feeling particularly creative, I’ll sort them by blues, reds, greens, etc.

halloween candy

CAKE GEL:  Very portable and works very quickly.  Cake gel is a must if a kid is to the point of being too shaky to chew or swallow.  Really, it’s one step away from needing glucagon.  If your child needs assistance, rub the gel on his or her gums and it will absorb even faster.  One important note about cake gel that we found out while skiing:  not all tops are screw-tops.  Some brands require scissors to snip off the top.  Do you know how hard it is to find a pair of scissors in a ski lodge?  After that incident, we started carrying a pair of scissors in the car and also made sure the brand of cake gel we bought has screw tops.

cake gel

GLUCAGON:  The mother of all treatments, this is an instant jolt of sugar to the bloodstream.  To me, that little red or orange case invokes a bit of fear, too …. fear that I might not be calm enough to use it, fear thinking about Hannah being low enough to need it.  So we keep all expired kits and practice!  Even Hannah’s younger sister gets a turn, injecting the fluid into the vial of powder, carefully mixing the contents, drawing up the shot, and pressing the plunger.  Did you know that in a pinch you can also use less glucagon to treat a “regular” low, i.e. if you are somewhere without other treatments?  Check with your endocrinologist or certified diabetes educator as to how many cc’s could be used in this case.

glucagonWhat is your go-to treatment for low blood sugar?  I’d like to know!


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