The "15/15 Rule" - to treat vs over treating low blood sugar

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

Are you familiar with the "15/15 Rule" ? If you live with diabetes you know how tricky it can be to decide what to eat/drink to correct low blood sugar, while not over eating which can head the problem in the opposite direction. Ugh!!

Let's begin with what hypoglycemia is... otherwise known as low blood sugar it's when blood sugar decreases below normal levels. In people with diabetes, this is diagnosed when level is below 70 mg/dL. Severe hypoglycemia is when blood sugar is below 55 mg/dL and may require another person's help.



The 15/15 rule for treating low blood sugar


The main causes for blood sugar to plummet.. can be to little food (carbs) eaten along with an insulin dosage. Stress and physical exercise can also lower sugar levels. This is the Roller Coaster Ride... balancing carbohydrates along with a correct insulin dosage. While recognizing other insulin that is already "on board", that may also begin to lower blood sugar levels. We must also factor in other variables that occur throughout a busy day, like how active or stressed we may be.

Now that we know better what it is, how do we treat hypoglycemia without over treating it. If we fall below 70 mg/dL, begin treating this with 15 grams of carbohydrates. The lower our blood sugar the more rapid acting choice we need to consider, such as glucose tablets, honey, fruit juice, hard candy. This simple quick acting sugar source, will give us what we need quicker. I often start with 3-4 glucose tablets, which have 4 grams of carbs each, this will provide 12-16 grams of carbs. Wait 15 minutes, then check blood sugar again, commonly known as the "15/15 rule". If the blood sugar is still low after 15 minutes, repeat the process with another 15 grams of carbs.


If we follow this simple "15/15 rule" then the outcome to reach a normal blood sugar level is likely. If however, we over treat and eat to many grams of carbs in a panic, this can quickly result in above normal blood sugar level. I've learned the hard way when trying to resolve the low and then over treating it. This can then require an insulin dose to correct.


Becoming better aware of what carbs and how many carbs to treat with, will save us from the Roller Coaster Ride that we all want to avoid when managing the day to day with diabetes.


Are you over-treating your blood sugar? Let me know in the comments below.