How to Raise Blood Sugar Quickly

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can be a problem, especially in people taking insulin and certain other medications for diabetes. Symptoms include feeling shaky, light-headed, and confused. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to coma and even death, so it's important to know how to quickly raise blood sugar.

This article will describe low blood sugar and quick ways to raise blood sugar.

Man sitting on couch checking blood sugar

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Understanding Low Blood Sugar

Our bodies, particularly our brains and hearts, depend on sugar for energy. "Blood glucose" is the term for the amount of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. Problems can arise when blood glucose is either too high or too low.

Fasting blood glucose levels range from 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Levels higher than this indicate prediabetes (high blood sugar not quite high enough to be considered diabetes) or diabetes. Chronically high blood sugar can lead to complications like nerve, eye, and kidney damage, and cardiovascular disease. People with diabetes often require medication to keep blood sugar levels healthy.

Blood sugar levels lower than 70 mg/dL indicate low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Levels below 54 mg/dL indicate serious hypoglycemia that can lead to loss of consciousness. Low blood sugar is often a side effect of blood sugar–lowering medications for diabetes, like insulin and sulfonylureas. However, other medications can lower blood sugar, especially in people with diabetes. These include beta-blockers and some antibiotics.

Nondiabetic Hypoglycemia

People without diabetes can also develop low blood sugar, though this is rare. There are two types of nondiabetic hypoglycemia: reactive hypoglycemia and fasting hypoglycemia.

Reactive hypoglycemia can occur after a high-carbohydrate meal and is more common in people with prediabetes, a history of stomach surgery, or certain enzyme deficiencies.

Fasting hypoglycemia occurs with a period of fasting, and is more common with:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications
  • Serious illness
  • Pancreatic tumors

Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include the following:

  • Feeling shaky, anxious, irritable, or hungry
  • Sweating and clammy skin
  • Weakness, tiredness
  • Light-headedness
  • Vision changes
  • Difficulty walking
  • Speech slurring
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

If you have any of these symptoms and think your blood sugar could be low, check your blood glucose level if you are able. If not, don't delay treatment.

Foods That Raise Blood Sugar

Fifteen grams of simple carbohydrates can often restore blood glucose to normal levels. Simple carbohydrates are quickly absorbed, and a good way to raise blood sugar. The "15-15 rule" involves eating 15 grams of simple carbs and checking your blood sugar 15 minutes later once your body has had time to absorb them. Eat 15 more grams if your blood sugar remains under 70 mg/dL.

The following foods have about 15 grams of sugar:

  • A half cup of juice or soda (note that diet soda doesn't contain sugar and won't work to raise blood sugar)
  • A packet of sugar
  • A tablespoon of honey or syrup
  • Hard or chewy candy, like lollipops, gumdrops, or jelly beans (refer to the labels for how much sugar is in each)

Additionally, sugar can be taken in the form of glucose tablets or gels. After raising your blood sugar, eat a meal to ensure it does not drop again.

Raising Blood Sugar Without Food

Sometimes blood sugar becomes so low that it causes confusion, a seizure, or unconsciousness, which prevents you from eating anything with sugar to raise your glucose level. This is an emergency situation.

Treatment of low blood sugar in this case can include giving glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that signals the liver to release glucose into the blood. It is available as an injection or nasal powder. If you need to administer glucagon, be sure to follow the instruction manual in the packet.

After giving someone glucagon, it can take 15 minutes for that person to wake up. Once awake enough, the person should drink juice and be given a meal to prevent further blood sugar drops. Family members and coworkers of people with diabetes should be familiar with how to administer this life-saving medication. Call 911 if glucagon is not available.


Preventing hypoglycemia includes being aware of your blood sugar, carbohydrate intake, and other factors like exercise and illness. Ways to prevent low blood sugar include:

  • Taking enough insulin
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Eating enough carbohydrates
  • Sticking to an exercise plan


Low blood sugar can lead to serious complications if untreated, including the following:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

This is why it's so important to quickly recognize and treat low blood sugar. Family members, roommates, and coworkers of people with diabetes should also be trained to recognize and treat low blood sugar with glucagon.


Hypoglycemia is a potentially serious condition of low blood sugar that, left untreated, can lead to seizures, coma, and death. It's important to recognize the signs of low blood sugar and treat it with the 15-15 rule of ingesting simple carbohydrates followed by checking blood sugar.

Family members, friends, and coworkers of people with diabetes should also be educated on recognizing and treating or calling emergency medical services for people experiencing low blood sugar.

A Word From Verywell

Keeping blood sugar in a healthy range can be a challenge for people with diabetes. Whenever starting a new medication, beginning an exercise regimen, experiencing severe illness, or making changes to your diet or lifestyle, it's important to closely monitor your blood sugar, as changes such as these can contribute to hypoglycemic episodes.

Adjustments of insulin and other diabetes medications can be made with your healthcare team to get your blood sugar into a good range while avoiding dangerous episodes of low blood sugar.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does orange juice raise blood sugar fast?

    Yes, drinking orange juice is a great way to quickly raise blood sugar. A half cup of orange juice contains about 15 grams of simple carbohydrates, which are quickly absorbed by the body. For people who are on blood sugar–lowering medications, it can be a good idea to keep orange juice or other fruit juice on hand to treat low blood sugar.

  • How long does it take to raise blood sugar after eating?

    How quickly your blood sugar will rise after eating depends on what you eat. Simple carbohydrates, like those found in juice, regular (not diet) soda, and candy are quickly absorbed and can raise blood sugar within 15 minutes. Complex carbohydrates take longer for the body to absorb, and thus won't raise blood sugar as fast.

  • Can you have hypoglycemia if you don't have diabetes?

    While it is rare for people with diabetes to experience low blood sugar, there are some circumstances that can cause this. Certain medical conditions, like pancreatic tumor, prediabetes, and enzyme deficiencies, can lead to hypoglycemia. In addition, fasting combined with alcohol, certain medications, and serious illness can cause low blood sugar.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes tests.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Low blood sugar.

  3. MedlinePlus. Drug-induced low blood sugar.

  4. Endocrine Society. Hypoglycemia.

  5. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to treat low blood sugar.

  7. MedlinePlus. Glucagon.

By Angela Ryan Lee, MD
Angela Ryan Lee, MD, is board-certified in cardiovascular diseases and internal medicine. She is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and holds board certifications from the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and the National Board of Echocardiography. She completed undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Biology, medical school at Jefferson Medical College, and internal medicine residency and cardiovascular diseases fellowship at the George Washington University Hospital. Her professional interests include preventive cardiology, medical journalism, and health policy.