Outdoor Self Reliance is reader-supported. Check out our Affiliate Disclosure

Field Treatment of Diabetic Shock

When is a person who appears to be drunk not drunk? When they may be going into diabetic shock.

During a recent First Aid class I taught, one of the students shared an incident with the rest of the class that happened when he was younger.

One day, a close family friend came to visit my students father. Something seemed a bit off, however. The friend was stumbling and and holding on to walls, tables and chairs, just to keep from falling. He was also mumbling and not making any sense. The father, kind of amazed that his friend would even show up drunk to his home, was a bit appalled at this man’s actions. How dare he show up to his home drunk, especially with the rest of the family present? Ready to admonish this man for his behavior, the father grabbed him by the shoulders, looked him dead in the eye, and started to let him know he felt about his appearance and actions. It was right then the father realized something was wrong with his friend— The look in his friends eyes told a different story. Not knowing exactly what was wrong with his friend, the father had his friend sit in a chair at the dining room table. Fortunately, there was a bowl of candy and the friend was able to reach for the bowl and began to quickly consume candy. After a short amount of time, the friend was able to recover and come to his senses, fortunately.

As guides in the outdoors, we have an obligation for the welfare of the people we are guiding. Many times, the people we guide are reluctant to disclose any existing medical conditions, which if signs and symptoms manifest, can make it seem like something else is going on, in this case, someone has been taking shots of alcohol and are beginning to get tipsy. Being in remote areas, far from contact with anyone else, let alone help, really makes the situation dangerous. For this reason, it is important we educate ourselves with as much first aid knowledge as possible.

Many, if not most of us have experienced the effects of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) from not eating. One begins to get grumpy, can get snappy with others, confused, dizzy, or may even feel like vomiting. Without some food or other form of energy, we tend to get worse. A person who’s diabetic and suffers from hypoglycemia is a real life or death emergency if not treated quickly.

common signs and symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling shaky
  • Hunger
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Pounding heart; racing pulse
  • Pale skin
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Appears to be drunk, when they are known to not haven been drinking

There may be other signs that present, but these are fairly common.

Treatment for hypoglycemia is fairly straight forward. The suffering person simply needs glucose (sugar). Candy, cake frosting, glucose in a tube, etc all works well. Also rest is encouraged in order to slow a persons activity from burning more calories as they recover.

Like always, this isn’t the be all end all for medical treatment. It just gives you something to do rather than do nothing, during a medical emergency. I highly encourage everyone to educate themselves, as much as possible, in first aid, because, in the end, the definition of a survival situation, is a direct threat to life. And the point is not to ever get into a survival situation to begin with.