Category: Endocrine

Diabetic Hyperglycaemia (Kids)

Diabetic children sometimes attend ED with hyperglycaemia, but not in DKA (what should we do?)

Paeds have produced some advice to follow:

  1. Ketones over 0.6?
    • <0.6: Encourage fluids & food, may need an insulin correction
    • >0.6: ask Question 2
  2. Are there clinical features of DKA?
    • NO: Encourage fluids & food, decide Insulin correction, will need to be monitored
    • YES: Will need Paeds admission

Hypoglycaemia – Adult

Hypoglycaemia (Blood glucose under 4.0 mmol/l) is potentially fatal and should be treated. it may be defined as “mild” self-treated, or “severe” treated by a third party i.e. you.

Hypoglycaemia is a common side-effect of insulin and sulfonylureas (they start with gli-) as they both work by lowering glucose concentration in the blood. Other diabetic medications work by preventing glucose rise, thus posing a lesser risk.


Signs & Symps

  • Autonomic: Sweating, Palpitations, Shaking, Hunger
  • Neuroglycopenic: Confusion, Drowsy, Odd behaviour, Incoordination, Speech difficulty
  • General: Nausea, Headache

Risk Factors

  • Medical: 
    • Diabetic: Strict control, Long term Insulin, Lipohypertrophy at injection sites,Impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia
    • Organ dysfunction: Severe hepatic dysfunction, Renal impairment, Cognitive dysfunction/dementia, Endocrine (Addisons, hypothyroid, hypopituitary)
    • GIT: Gastroenteritis, impaired absorption, Bariatric surgery
    • Medication: Concurrent use of medicines with hypoglycaemic agents e.g. warfarin, quinine, salicylates, fibrates, sulphonamides (including cotrimoxazole), monoamine oxidase inhibitors, NSAIDs, probenecid, somatostatin analogues, SSRIs.
    • Sepsis
    • Terminal illness
  • Lifestyle:
    • Reduced/Irregular intake: Poor diet, Irregular lifestyle, Alcohol
    • Increased use: Exercise (relative to usual), Early pregnancy, Breast feeding
    • Poor control: Increasing age, No or inadequate blood glucose monitoring, Alcohol


Conscious & Orientated

  1. 15-20g fast acting glucose
    • 4-5 jelly babies
    • 3-4 heaped teaspoons of sugar dissolved in water (milk delays absorption)
    • 150-200ml fresh fruit juice
  2. Rpt Blood Glucose 10-15min
    • if blood glucose remains <4.0mmol/l step one may be repeated up to 3 times in total
  3. Blood Glucose remains <4.0mmol/l
    • 150-200ml 10% Glucose IV
    • 1mg Glucogon IM (if starved or sulfonylureas may not work well)
  4. Blood Glucose >4.0mmol/l – Give long acting Carbs
    • 2 Biscuits
    • 1 Slice bread/toast
    • 200-300ml milk (not soya)
    • Meal
  5. Don’t omit insulin injections
  6. Diabetic review: most patients can be followed up by diabetic nurses but some may need admission.
  7. Patient Advice Sheet

Conscious but agitated, confused, unable to cooperate

  • If patient CAN cooperate – follow guide above
  • If patient CAN’T cooperate
    • 1.5 -2 tubes 40% glucose gel (Glucogel) squeezed into the mouth between the teeth and gums (can be substituted for step 1 above)
    • 1mg Glucogon IM (if starved or sulfonylureas may not work well)
    • Follow subsequent steps as above

Unconscious, seizures, very aggressive

Start at step 3 above (while managing ABC), the choice of whether to use IV glucose or IM glycogen will be determined by practicality of achieving IV/IO access.

Although you will need to follow the remaining steps the patient will almost certainly require admission.



Patient Advice Sheet – Hypo’s

Joint British Diabetic Society – The Hospital Management of Hypoglycaemia in Adults with Diabetes Mellitus 3rd edition




Hypokalaemia (low potassium), is a common problem. It is found in 14% of outpatients and 20% of inpatients, however only 4-5% of those are of clinical significance.


  • Severe: <2.5 mEq/l OR Symptomatic – Look for Hypomagnesaemia
  • Moderate: 2.5-2.9 mEq/l (No or Minor symptoms)
  • Mild: 3.0-3.4 mEq/l  (Usually asymptomatic)

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Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS)

HHS (A.K.A. HONK) is a diabetic emergency, but unlike DKA we don’t always think about it.

Patients with HHS are often elderly with multiple co-morbidities, and they are always very sick.


  • Hypovolaemia
  • Hyperglycaemia – generally ≥30mmol/l
  • High Osmolality – generally ≥320mosmol/kg (Calculation= 2[Na] + [Glucose] + [Urea])
  • & NOT:
    • Acidotic – pH >7.3, HCO3 >15mmol/l
    • Ketotic – blood <3mmol/l, Urine <2+

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