What Are Glucose Tabs?

Glucose tabs are chewable tablets made of glucose (sugar). They are a quick and practical option to increase low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) in people with diabetes, which is usually defined as a blood glucose of less than 70 mg/dL. Low blood sugar can be caused by a number of things, including taking too much insulin and not eating enough carbohydrates. In people with type 1 diabetes, exercise can also potentially lead to low blood glucose.

While a snack or sugary drink can also help with low blood sugar levels, glucose tablets work faster and more effectively. They can be a way to prevent serious adverse events from low blood sugar, such as seizures.

diabetes treatment items: monitor, pill, syringe

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What Is Glucose? 

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar found in your blood. It comes from the food you eat, and is your body's main source of energy. Your blood carries glucose to all of your body's cells to use for energy. It's critical to maintain a normal blood sugar level to avoid hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia.

Normally, a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, pulls glucose in your blood into cells, where it's used for energy. If a person with high blood sugar takes too much insulin to lower it, it can leave too little sugar in the bloodstream, leading to low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is especially common in people with type 1 diabetes.

Normal Pre-Meal Blood Sugar Levels

Adults (who are not pregnant): 80 to 130 mg/dL

Pregnant women with gestational diabetes: Less than 95 mg/dL

Pregnant women with pre-existing type 1 or type 2 diabetes: 70 mg/dL to 95 mg/dL

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger

Hypoglycemia Unawareness

Some people may not have any symptoms even if they have low blood sugar, which is called hypoglycemia unawareness. This will make it harder for someone to treat hypoglycemia early. This is more likely to happen if a person:

  • Has had diabetes for more than 5 to 10 years
  • Frequently have low blood sugar
  • Take certain medicines, such as beta blockers for high blood pressure

In these cases, it's important to check blood sugar levels regularly to make sure they are normal.

If not addressed promptly and as blood sugar levels continue to drop, a person may develop severe low sugar. Severe low blood sugar is defined as below 54 mg/dL. Blood sugar this low may make you pass out.

Serious symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Feeling weak
  • Having difficulty walking or seeing clearly
  • Acting strange or feeling confused
  • Having seizures

People with diabetes may experience low blood sugar as often as once or twice a week, even when managing their blood sugar closely. 

How To Use Glucose Tabs

Glucose tablets are specifically designed to act fast and treat hypoglycemia. While sugary snacks or beverages are plausible options, glucose tablets are made to be dissolved in precise dosage to act fast and effectively.

Glucose tablets need to be purchased at the correct dose and used properly to see an improvement in blood sugar levels. Discuss with your doctor which dosage to keep on hand. The typical dosage recommended is 15 grams, which is about four glucose tablets.

Here's how to use glucose tablets:

  • Recognize and confirm low blood sugar level with a glucometer
  • Take three to four glucose tablets
  • Wait 15 minutes, recheck blood sugar level
  • If blood sugar levels are still low (< 70 mg/dL), eat another three to four glucose tablets
  • Repeat until blood sugar is above 70 mg/dL

Once the hypoglycemia is controlled, it's important to have a snack or meal to stabilize your blood sugar. This can include apple and peanut butter or crackers and cheese.

Purchasing and Storing

Before making any purchases, discuss glucose tablets with your doctor. They can recommend the best options and determine the correct dosage for you, as well as run you through the process.

You can purchase glucose tabs over the counter from drug stores or online. Call your insurance company to see if glucose tablets are covered by your plan.

There will be an expiration date on your tablet box. Glucose tabs are best used before this date because after a while the tablets can harden and not be as effective. There are no specific requirements for storage, but it's important to keep them out of reach of children.

Popular glucose tablet products include:

  • Dex4 Fast-Acting Glucose
  • Glucolift Glucose Tablets
  • Optimum Glucose Tabs
  • Trueplus Glucose Tablets

When To See a Doctor

Seek medical help if you are experiencing symptoms and don't have a glucometer if your symptoms are severe or if your symptoms aren't improving after taking glucose tabs or eating.

A Word From Verywell

Blood sugar levels naturally vary, but people with diabetes should be aware of symptoms of high or low levels and have the tools on hand to address them as soon as possible. When it comes to hypoglycemia, the symptoms can become severe. Keeping glucose tablets on hand can mean the difference between life or death. In a pinch, get your sugar from whatever source is available to you. Discuss with your doctors the best glucose tablet products for you.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

  2. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Updated March 25, 2021.

  4. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).