Glucagon

Glucagon is a hormone produced by the pancreas that causes the liver to release its stored sugar into the bloodstream. Glucagon is also available as a prescription medicine that comes in prefilled vials and syringes and works in the same way as the natural hormone.

People with diabetes or hypoglycemia sometimes develop very low blood sugar levels. A glucagon shot increases a person's blood sugar level at least 30 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) in about 5 minutes. If a person has a very low blood sugar level and is unconscious, or if the person cannot or will not drink or eat something containing sugar, he or she needs a glucagon shot.

Instructions for how to give a glucagon shot should be kept with the medicine. The expiration date should be checked often, as most glucagon kits need to be replaced every 6 months. The shot should be given by someone who knows how to give it correctly. A person who is having a low blood sugar emergency can safely have more than one glucagon shot. Make sure the person's blood sugar is checked after giving the glucagon shot. If the person becomes more alert, carefully give a quick-sugar food or liquid.

Last Updated: September 17, 2008

Author: Caroline Rea, RN, BS, MS

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology & Metabolism

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