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Hypoglycemia in Infancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a condition that causes your infant's blood glucose (sugar) level to drop too low. When this happens, his or her brain cells and muscles do not have enough energy to work well. Glucose is needed to help an infant's brain grow normally. Hypoglycemia may be short-term or ongoing.

What increases my infant's risk for short-term hypoglycemia?

  • Your infant was born earlier than expected (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
  • Your infant was born at a low birth weight and length.
  • Your infant's body makes too much insulin. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose out of the blood stream and into the cells to be used for energy. This condition is called hyperinsulinism.
  • You have diabetes or had toxemia while you were pregnant.

What causes ongoing hypoglycemia?

  • Hyperinsulinism caused by a genetic disorder (a disorder that an infant is born with)
  • Low levels of certain hormones
  • Problems with the way your infant's body uses glucose
  • Medical conditions such as ketotic hypoglycemia (the body changes fats into glucose for energy)

What are the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia?

Signs and symptoms may be mild and not easily seen. Newborns may not have any symptoms at all. Your infant may have any of the following:

  • Breathing that stops for short periods of time
  • Blue or purple skin color
  • Low body temperature
  • Problems eating well
  • Seizures
  • Sluggish or drowsy behavior

How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?

Your infant's pediatrician will ask about your infant's symptoms and examine him or her. The pediatrician may ask about the amount of time between your infant's last meal and the start of his or her symptoms. Tell the pediatrician if any other children in your family have a history of hypoglycemia. Your infant may need any of the following:

  • A fasting test is when your infant does not eat for a period of time. Healthcare providers watch your infant closely. When hypoglycemia occurs, tests are done to find the cause.
  • Blood and urine tests show your infant's blood sugar level. They may also help find the cause of his or her symptoms.

How is hypoglycemia treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your infant's hypoglycemia. Feed your infant often to help increase his or her glucose level. Your infant may also need to be given glucose through an IV at a hospital. An IV is a small tube placed in your infant's vein that is used to give him or her medicine or liquids. Some infants may also need to be fed a special diet. Infants with ongoing hypoglycemia may need medicine to manage the hypoglycemia. If medicine does not work, a small or large part of the pancreas may need to be removed. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your infant has problems breathing.
  • Your infant has a seizure.

When should I call my infant's pediatrician?

  • Your infant is sluggish (less alert than usual).
  • Your infant has side effects from his or her medicines.
  • Your infant is not eating well.
  • You have questions or concerns about your infant's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your infant's care. Learn about your infant's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your infant's pediatrician to decide what care you want for your infant. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Hypoglycemia in Infancy

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

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