Ways to Avoid Insulin Shock

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 19, 2020

Your diabetes medicine may lower your blood sugar more than you want sometimes. When your blood sugar gets too low, it’s called hypoglycemia.

When you end up with too much insulin in your body, sometimes it’s called insulin shock.

You’ll need treatment to get your glucose levels back to normal. If you don’t do anything about it, you may faint. Severe insulin shock is a medical emergency.

You may get insulin shock even if you’re doing everything you think you should to control your diabetes. It can happen if your food, exercise, and medicine aren’t in the right balance.

There are many ways you can lower your chances of insulin shock. And it’s much better to keep your glucose levels normal than to treat hypoglycemia often.

Your doctor can help you come up with a diabetes management plan so you can stay healthy.

Try These

Check your blood sugar. Use your blood glucose meter as often as your doctor thinks you should. That’s the best way for you to make sure your blood sugar is where it should be.

You may want to test your levels:

  • In the morning when you wake up
  • Before you eat
  • 2 hours after you eat
  • At night before you go to sleep

Talk to your health care team if you can’t stay in your target range. They can help you figure out if you need to change the amount or timing of your food, exercise, or medicine. 

Be mindful of exercise. Your body uses sugar when you’re active. To avoid hypoglycemia when you work out, you may need to:

  • Eat extra food.
  • Change the amount of insulin you take.

You can test your glucose before, during, and after you exercise to see how much your levels go down. Keep in mind that the lows can last for up to 24 hours if your workout is harder than normal.

Take the right amount of medicine. Make sure you don’t take a bigger dose of insulin than you need. Don’t take it at the wrong time, either.

You may need to eat something with carbs when you take your medicine. Remember you may absorb insulin faster if the shot goes into your muscle.

Ask your doctor if you need a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A CGM checks your glucose for you. It can alert you if it falls too low. This can help if you don’t usually notice when your blood sugar goes down (hypoglycemia unawareness). It’s more likely if you’ve had diabetes for more than 5 years.

Try an insulin pump. Studies show you may be less likely to have a serious insulin reaction if you use an insulin pump. This device is connected to your body and gives you regular doses of medicine during the day.

Stick to your meal plan. You should eat on a regular basis. Make sure your meals and snacks have the right amount of carbs to match your medicine. 

Have a plan when you’re sick. You should take your medication and eat, even if you don’t feel good or if you throw up. If you can’t keep anything down, call your doctor.

Don’t drink too much. Alcohol can make it hard for your body to control your blood sugar. And you may not be able to notice symptoms of hypoglycemia when you drink. If you’re going to drink alcohol, always eat something along with it. 

Avoid hot showers right after your insulin shot. The blood vessels in your skin get wider when you’re hot. Your insulin may get into your blood faster when this happens. You should wait at least 90 minutes after your shot before you get into a shower, bath, or hot tub.

Kids and Insulin Shock

It’s very important to stop low blood sugar in young children. Serious symptoms can hurt the brain, which grows a lot during their first 4 years. You may notice that babies or toddlers cry more or are fussy when their glucose is low. You may also have to teach your child what the early signs of hypoglycemia feel like, such as:

  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Feeling your heart beat really fast


Have Your Medical ID

If you (or your child) are likely to get insulin shock, you should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This can help other people know what’s wrong if you can’t talk about your symptoms. You can also keep medical information (like your medical ID) on your smartphone. Someone can get to it even if your phone is locked. On iPhones, this feature is in the health app and is called "Medical ID." On Android phones, you can also find it in your health app.

WebMD Medical Reference



American Diabetes Association: “Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose),” “Checking Your Blood Glucose.”

University of Colorado, Denver, Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes: “Understanding Diabetes, Chapter 6: Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia or Insulin Reaction).”

Joslin Diabetes Center: “What Can I Do To Prevent Serious Hypoglycemic Episodes When I Am Hypoglycemic Unaware?”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia),” “Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them To Manage Your Diabetes,” “Insulin, Medicines, & Other Diabetes Treatments,” “Take Care of Your Diabetes During Sick Days & Special Times.”

KidsHealth: “When Blood Sugar Is Too Low,” “(For Parents) Hypoglycemia.”

Journal of the American Medical Association: “Association of Insulin Pump Therapy vs Insulin Injection Therapy With Severe Hypoglycemia, Ketoacidosis, and Glycemic Control Among Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults With Type 1 Diabetes.”

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