New Technology for Administering Glucagon Could Assuage Schools’ Fears, Save Children’s Lives

Tim WelchBy Tim Welch

Many kids with diabetes are having serious problems at school when it comes to potential emergency situations.  One of the issues that children and adults with diabetes face is the risk of severe hypoglycemia.  Severe hypoglycemia occurs when the body's blood sugar level gets too low.  It is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening condition, in which the body begins to shut down.  Without immediate treatment, the hypoglycemic person will lose consciousness and stop breathing.  If left untreated, the condition will lead to coma, brain damage, and death.

In a severe hypoglycemic emergency, the person may not be capable of swallowing food or liquids and cannot eat food or drink beverages to raise their blood sugar.  But fortunately there is a life-saving treatment.  Glucagon, a hormone that causes the liver to release glucose into the blood stream, can be administered to help the person who is suffering from hypoglycemia.  It is crucial that glucagon be administered immediately in order to save the hypoglycemic person's life.  Administering glucagon is also relatively low-risk, since it is safe to inject even if the person with diabetes is not suffering from hypoglycemia, but some other condition with similar symptoms.

A child with diabetes may need glucagon in the event of a low blood sugar emergency.  Schools don't want to be responsible for administering glucagon because they think only a nurse should give glucagon, which is administered via an injection. However, the glucagon kit was designed for use by laypeople (i.e. spouses, family members, babysitters, friends etc.).  Before the injection is given, the glucagon must be reconstituted by mixing a powder with a liquid.  So some schools would rather dial 911 and wait for medical help to arrive, than mix together two vials and shake it before injecting the contents.

But a child who is suffering from severe hypoglycemia could suffer serious brain damage or die before emergency medical workers arrive.  Training videos on how to administer glucagon are available on the American Diabetes Association's website.  Even children can be trained to administer glucagon.  The use of glucagon is widely accepted, and thirty-three states explicitly or implicitly permit the administration of glucagon by a non-nurse school employee

An exciting new possibility for administering glucagon is in development and could be available soon that will make glucagon even easier to use.  Enject has developed a prototype of the GlucaPen, a device for administering glucagon very similar to an epipen.  The GlucaPen contains a mechanism that reconstitutes the glucagon within a self-contained unit at the turn of a knob.  The GlucaPen's instructions are printed clearly on the side of the pen.  Perhaps the simplicity of this device will finally convince schools to provide the care to students with diabetes that the students not only deserve, but are legally entitled to.  This new innovation could end up saving quite a few lives and hopefully will find its way into schools across the nation.

2 thoughts on “New Technology for Administering Glucagon Could Assuage Schools’ Fears, Save Children’s Lives

  1. This is an important point. When a child needs an injection they need it now. Each school needs to have an administrator on site who is trained to handle the situation.

  2. Thanks for this informative post, i didn’t really know anything about diabetes, now i have more understanding of how serious diabetes can be.

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