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Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia in Childhood

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is non-diabetic hypoglycemia?

Non-diabetic hypoglycemia is a condition that causes your child'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. This type of low blood sugar level can happen in children who do not have diabetes. Glucose is also important for helping your child's brain grow normally.

What causes non-diabetic hypoglycemia?

The cause of non-diabetic hypoglycemia may not be known. It may be caused by certain medical conditions. These include hyperinsulinism (your child's body makes too much insulin), hypothyroidism, or prediabetes. It may also be caused by fasting, which can lead to ketotic hypoglycemia. This is a condition that causes the body to change fats into glucose for energy.

What are the signs and symptoms of non-diabetic hypoglycemia?

  • Hunger or nausea
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Anxiety, confusion, or changes in behavior
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headache

How is non-diabetic hypoglycemia diagnosed?

Your child's pediatrician will ask about your child's symptoms and examine him or her. The pediatrician may ask about the amount of time between your child's last meal and the start of his or her symptoms. He or she may also ask if any other children in your family have hypoglycemia, or have had it in the past. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests show your child's blood sugar level. They may also help find the cause of his or her symptoms.
  • A fasting test is when your child does not eat for a period of time. Healthcare providers watch your child closely. When hypoglycemia occurs, tests are done to find the cause.
  • An oral glucose tolerance test may be done. After your child has fasted for 8 hours, his or her blood sugar level is tested. Your child is then given a glucose drink. His or her blood sugar level is checked after 1 hour and again after 2 hours. Healthcare providers look at how much the blood sugar level increases from the first check.

How is non-diabetic hypoglycemia treated?

  • Treatment depends on the cause of your child's hypoglycemia. He or she may need to eat or drink a source of glucose to try and raise the blood sugar level. Some children may need to be given glucose through an IV at a hospital. Your child's hypoglycemia may go away with treatment as he or she grows.
  • If your child has ketotic hypoglycemia, he or she may need to be fed often. Your child may also need to be on a high-protein, high-carbohydrate diet. Some foods that contain protein are red meat, poultry (chicken and turkey), fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Some foods that contain carbohydrate are bread, tortillas, cereal, rice, and pasta. Ask your child's pediatrician if he or she needs to be on a special diet.

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 child has a seizure or faints.

When should I call my child's pediatrician?

  • Your child has trouble thinking clearly.
  • Your child has symptoms of hypoglycemia and cannot eat.
  • Your child has blurred vision or vision changes.
  • Your child feels very tired and weak.
  • Your child is sweating more than usual.
  • Your child feels dizzy, lightheaded, and shaky.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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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