Does your little one fall apart if he goes too long between meals? He may become irritable, sweaty, shaky, pale, lethargic, clumsy, or unfocused. Maybe you’ve become used to this situation and always have a snack on hand, which seems to do the trick after a few minutes. But if your child’s reaction to hunger is always that severe, it may be worth a trip to the pediatrician to rule out hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Here is what you need to know about low blood sugar in children:
Hypoglycemia occurs when blood glucose (sugar) levels become too low. Glucose is released into the blood when your body digests most foods, and it’s used to power your body, especially the brain and nervous system. Blood sugar levels can become too low when a person doesn’t eat enough, or if a diabetic person takes too much insulin and experiences “insulin shock.”
In addition to the symptoms above, hypoglycemia can cause anxiety, heart palpitations, headache, blurry or double vision, and weakness. In very extreme cases, it can also cause seizures and loss of consciousness. And while many kids and adults may feel some of these symptoms when they’re very hungry, it’s very unusual for hypoglycemia to be the cause if a person isn’t also diabetic or experiencing severe starvation, like with anorexia. Hypoglycemia can also occur on an individual basis, such as after a sickness or prolonged exercise. Recurrent episodes not due to diabetes or starvation can be caused by a medication your child takes or rare congenital issues.
If your child experiences these symptoms on occasion and is otherwise healthy, it’s likely due to a diet that’s too high in sugar and starch. These substances cause a person’s blood sugar to rise and fall – even with noticeable side effects – but not necessarily outside the normal range for glucose levels. Avoiding sugars and caffeine could cause the symptoms to subside. But if you’re concerned, see the pediatrician who can determine whether your child has hypoglycemia by testing his blood sugar level while he’s experiencing the unpleasant symptoms.
Is your child hypoglycemic? How do you try to prevent the episodes?
Sources: kidshealth.org and childrenshospital.org