Diabetes is the name for a condition suffered by a person whose body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin. Insulin reduces the amount of sugar in the blood. If diabetes goes untreated, sugar levels will climb dangerously high.


Insulin Dependent

Type 1

Produces little or no insulin so has to inject themselves with insulin in order to keep sugar levels controlled.
Diet Controlled

Type 2

Still produces insulin naturally, so can control the condition by reducing the amount of sugar that they eat.



  High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycaemia) Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycaemia)
Onset Slow – 12-48 hours Fast – 2minutes – 1 hour
Levels of Response Slow deterioration

Drowsy, lethargic behavior

Unconsciousness if left untreated

Rapid deterioration

Weakness, dizziness

Confusion, memory loss

Lack of co-ordination, slurred speech

Bizzare, uncharacteristic, potentially violent

Unconsciousness within an hour

Skin Dry and warm Pale, cold and sweaty
Breathing Deep sighing breaths Normal, or shallow and rapid
Pulse Rapid Rapid



So what can I do?

High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycaemia):

  • Arrange for the person to attend A&E or a Doctor ASAP
  • If the casualty becomes unconscious, call 999


Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycaemia):

If they are conscious:

  • Give them a sugary drink and some carbohydrate based food, like a sandwich (it is important to not just give a quick boost, but also a long term boost)
  • If they have specialised ‘Glucose Gel’ assist them in taking it (rubbing into the gums and cheeks works well, rather than swallowing)
  • Stay with the casualty and let them rest
  • If there isn’t an improvement within 10-15 minutes consider calling 999
  • Think! Is there another cause of these symptoms?


If they are unconscious:

  • Open the airway and check for breathing
  • Place the casualty in the recovery position
  • Call 999 immediately


Want to know more? Attend a training course which covers this topic:

QA Level 3 Award in First Aid at Work (QCF)
QA Level 2 Award in Emergency First Aid At Work (QCF)

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