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Diabetes First Aid: How To Manage The Silent Illness

Around 1.9 million Australians have diabetes, this includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (approximately 500,000). Currently, 300 Australians develop diabetes every day. That is one person every 5 minutes.

Diabetes has primary and secondary effects on those living with the condition as well as their loved ones. For every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or friend who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day to support. This means an estimated 2.4 million Australians are directly linked to diabetes.

Glucose levels that are too low (hypoglycaemia) or too high (hyperglycaemia) can quickly become a medical emergency where casualties can even slip into a coma. If you have a loved one living with diabetes, ensure that you are equipped with the First Aid skills and confidence in case of an emergency.


The Statistics

The diabetic epidemic is no secret; most people know someone suffering from the disease, but just how many people does this illness affect and what does it mean for the wider community?

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disorder of the pancreas. In simple terms, as part of the digestive process when food is consumed, the body works to break it down into sugars. The pancreas produces insulin to convert this sugar into energy. With diabetes, insulin is either not produced, or insufficient. This creates a build-up of toxins in the blood, which can be potentially life-threatening. Hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia are types of medical emergencies that can occur among people with diabetes.​

The Differences Between Hypoglycaemia And Hyperglycaemia





Hypoglycaemia is when your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels begin to drop. It is the more common and dangerous type of diabetic emergency.

Hyperglycaemia is when your blood glucose level starts to climb - it develops more slowly and can make a person ill over days or weeks.

Signs and symptoms

Weakness, trembling or shaking
Faintness, dizziness
Numbness around lips and fingers
Lack of concentration
Teariness or crying
Slurred speech
Irritability or altered behaviour
Loss of consciousness

Excessive thirst
Blurred vision
Hot, dry skin
Smell of acetone (nail polish remover) on breath

Diabetes First Aid for an Emergency

People often assume someone with hypoglycaemia is intoxicated, as the symptoms can be similar. When in fact they may be close to slipping in to a coma, so always check for diabetes bracelets or tags and even try asking them. Even if there is alcohol on their breath, they could still be suffering from an episode, and alcohol can make a diabetic more prone to having hypoglycaemia.

If a casualty is unconscious:

  1. Follow DRSABCD
  2. Call triple zero (000) for medical assistance

If a casualty is conscious and signs suggest hypoglycaemia:

  1. Follow DRSABCD
  2. Help the person to sit or lie in a comfortable position and reassure the patient
  3. Loosen any tight clothing
  4. Give the person sugar (glucose) such as a soft drink, fruit juice, sugar, jellybeans or glucose tablets
  5. Continute giving sugar every 15 minutes until person recovers
  6. If their next meal is more than 20 minutes away, give the person carbohydrates, such as a sandwich, milk, fresh or dry fruit, or dry biscuits and cheese.
  7. If there is no improvement in symptoms, call 000 for an ambulance

If casualty is conscious and signs suggest hyperglycaemia:

  1. Follow DRSABCD
  2. Encourage the person to drink water
  3. Seek medical aid if symptoms worsen
  4. If the person has not yet been diagnosed with diabetes, encourage them to seek medical aid

Source: Diabetes Australia

Bitesize Diabetes, Seizures, Hyperventilation and Fainting
Bitesize Diabetes, Seizures, Hyperventilation and Fainting
Learn how to successfully provide first aid to a casualty suffering from diabetes, seizures, hyperventilation or fainting.
RRP $14.95
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