Oesophageal Patients Association
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What explanation to give to bystanders when having a hypo like attack ?

Was in Sainsbury's yesterday and had rather a bad episode - visual disturbances ,jerking ,disorientated . Normally I carry dextrose tablets but had forgotten and was looking for some on the shelves .

I was in a bit of a state when approached by staff ,I explained what i was looking for and that I'd be better when I got some sugar but inevitably they asked if I were diabetic . Is it easiest to say yes _ I'm a bit of a pedant but the proper explanation seems too complicated .

What do others do ? Even when carrying dextrose tablets it's sometimes a while before I'm straight so a few simple words to repeat ( or better yet ,a pre printed card ) would be handy .

PS I've often been troubled by these episodes in supermarkets and though not logical I wonder if the lighting contributes .

8 Replies

A similar thing happened to me, but I was walking along a country lane, and ended up leaning against a wall. A woman stopped and asked if I was OK, and in my confusion and misery I said "i'm dumping" and she understood! She drove me home and told me her friend had stomach surgery and suffered the same problem! She knew I just had to lie down.

I do agree a printed card explaining would be very useful. If I could remember which pocket I'd put it in..... Or did I put it in my bag....


I must admit I usually just say I'm diabetic - people seem to understand that better than 'I'm not technically diabetic but sometimes my body goes into overdrive and produces loads of insulin / my food moves too quickly through my system meaning the insulin produced by my body hasnt got anything to munch on and my levels go through the floor!' lol


Hi I also have had such bad attacks but not often. Once or twice it has turned into the appearance of a fit. I have joined POTS/ Stars- reflex anoxic shock syndrome. The group is one which has a very helpful explanation for my experience. I have the hypo attacks a Number of times a week. I tend to say whatever comes to mind. Nobody seems too worried as long as you recover...the kindness of strangers.

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Thanks for that everyone .

I think I should just say I'm diabetic .

Actually they weren't very helpful ,very insistent on pointing out the barcode on the dextrose tablets and emphasising that I should remember to get the packet scanned at the checkout .Pointed out a seat but I was so disorientated that it looked very far away and it was a struggle to get to it .

And then my partner seemed a bit put out by my dissapearance to bed when I got home .He had to cook his own dinner and managed to destroy the induction plate while he was at it .

A line to be drawn under that day I think !


Violet Queen! Have heard a lot of you experience this and it scares me because I have always been one of those that ate like a bird! Have listened to all of you! I agree that the best is to just describe your condition as a diabetic better understood when you are going through an episode! Trying to feed myself well and keep something sugary on hand but do forget sometimes! Just destroyed my port card they gave me since I had it removed 2 weeks ago and have to be honest with you it was in my office documents not in my wallet! So loved Patchworkers response! Maybe we can create a bracelet? I love to design! My new mission! Help my Oesophagus has been replaced by my stomach! I like it!!! When you tell people that they took your Oesophagus out and took 30% of your stomach out and and used the rest of my stomach to repipe my Oesophagus people just look at you! My Oral surgeon stated that he watched the surgery that I had and stated that it was one of the most incredible observations in medical school that he had ever seen. We are surviving and have to protect ourselves as often as we can! I thank all of you for sharing! This site is invaluable! Keep sweet!


Lovely post listen ! "keep sweet " ha ha .

My attacks are 90% due I think to my diet .I need to be more careful how and what I eat .Though it's a little tricky to get it right .

Hopefully you'll be fine .


I have exactly the same issue! I would always feel 'not quite with it' when shopping. I think this is because we do not drip feed food from our gut, so whilst we walk around we use up our blood sugar and there is nothing in gut to top it up.

I always try and keep a pack of werthers originals in my pocket and a spare few packs in the glove box of the car.

Also, when I get to the shops, I go straight for the sweets section first and put a few in the trolley in case I need them. I leave them at the checkout if I don't eat them.

I think staff are a little scared when they hear we need sugar and take a while to respond in case they are doing something wrong....

Another option would be to get a key ring pill box and put a few sweets in that.

Hope that helps,



I suspect that the lighting and the temperature around the chilling cabinets will not help, but the basic problem will be the insulin spike and probably when (and what) you last ate before going shopping. You could try a Medic-Alert bracelet? or a plastic wristband?

If you are having these regularly, and it sounds like you are, then it really sounds like an opportunity to review your diet, eating times and insulin balance on a more systematic basis than perhaps you have done recently? (with a meter). I am tempted to suggest that the OPA could produce some printed cards (like the restaurant / toilet facilities cards), which would indeed be handy, but they should not be a substitute for trying to become as stable as you can and to try and achieve the best option, if it is possible for you (and I know it might be easier said than done), of trying to prevent the attacks in the first place.