Living With Diabetes

News from St John - 7 Jul 2023

How common is diabetes? 

In 2020, an estimated 1 in 20 Australians were living with diabetes according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Almost 1.3 million hospitalisations were associated with diabetes in 2020–21, with 4.7% recording diabetes as the principal diagnosis and around 95 per cent recording diabetes as an additional diagnosis.

This figure represents 11 per cent of all hospitalisations in Australia.

The diabetes prevalence rate was 2.9 times as high among Indigenous Australians as non–Indigenous Australians.

There is also growing evidence of an increased risk of new-onset diabetes following COVID -19. (Sathish et al. 2021, Zhang et al. 2022).

What is it? 

Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot maintain healthy levels of glucose, resulting in too much glucose in the blood.

Glucose is a form of sugar which is the main source of energy for our bodies.

Diabetic emergencies are when blood sugar levels become either too low (hypoglycaemia) or too high (hyperglycaemia).

The way we treat a person suffering from a diabetic episode is different depending on what type of condition they have, and should be guided by the person’s own action plan (if they have one).

Treating a diabetic:

A) Low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia)

Signs and symptoms:

  • Weakness, trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Teariness or crying
  • Irritability
  • Hunger
  • Numbness around lips and fingers

This may progress quickly to: slurred speech, confusion, loss of consciousness or seizures.

What to do:

1. Follow DRSABCD.

2. Assist the individual to be in a comfortable position and provide reassurance.

3. Loosen any tight clothing.

4. Give sugar such as glucose tablets, jellybeans or a sweet drink (such as a soft drink or cordial).

5. DO NOT give diet soft drinks or sugar-free cordials.

6. Continue giving sugar every 15 minutes.

7. Follow up with a sandwich or other food.

8. If there is no improvement call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

B) High blood glucose (hyperglycaemia)

Signs and symptoms: 

  • Excessive thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Hot and dry skin
  • Smell of acetone (nail polish remover) on breath.

What to do: 

1. Follow DRSABCD.

2. Encourage the patient to drink water.

3. Seek medical aid if symptoms worsen.

4. If the patient has not yet been diagnosed with diabetes encourage them to seek medical aid.

Why knowing First Aid is a life skill.

Knowing how to perform basic First Aid techniques can be a lifesaver in emergency situations.

St John Ambulance QLD offers a raft of extensive First Aid courses and refreshers to ensure you have these skills.