Hypothermia can be a sign of severely low blood sugar levels. This happens in response to very low levels of glucose in the central nervous system, usually when blood sugar levels are too low for shivering to occur.

While hypoglycemia and hypothermia are separate conditions that can be dangerous and potentially life threatening, some research shows they may be connected in certain ways.

This article will describe the relationship between hypoglycemia and hypothermia.

Hypothermia is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce the heat needed to keep yourself warm. This can be a symptom of severely low blood sugar levels. At times, it may be a response to depressed levels of glucose in the central nervous system (neuroglycopenia).

When the body enters into a hypothermic state, it reduces oxidative stress and decreases the body’s energy requirements.

This can help protect the body when there’s a lack of fuel in the form of glucose in the bloodstream (i.e., low blood sugar levels).

Hypothermia and hypoglycemia have long been correlated.

In this older 2012 study, hypothermia was identified in over 20% of patients with severe hypoglycemia. In patients who have insulin-dependent diabetes, this combination can be fatal.

Low blood sugar levels cause heat loss through peripheral vasodilation and sweating.

Additionally, shivering, which is a mechanism that produces heat in the body when it’s facing extreme cold, is inhibited when blood sugar levels fall between 30 and 45 mg/dL, to preserve energy for vital body functions, like brain activity and breathing.

Core body temperature can remain stable while shivering but will drop significantly when it stops.

Shivering resumes once glucose levels are brought back up into a normal range in an effort to warm the body.

Hypothermia can signal a decrease in insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion, which can lead to high blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia.

This is the body’s protective measure to save glucose for essential functions such as shivering and brain functioning.

In extreme cases, this will require intravenous insulin therapy and close monitoring to bring blood sugar levels back within a normal range.

Hypothermia is defined as a core body temperature of less than 97.7° F. In preterm infants, hypothermia can increase both morbidity and mortality.

Hypothermia in newborns can be purely environmental or may signal an illness.

When a baby gets cold, they will use up glycogen and glucose stores to keep warm.

Persistent hypothermia can result in low blood sugar levels and metabolic acidosis. It increases the risk of late-onset sepsis and mortality.

It’s important to keep babies in a safe and warm environment to prevent both hypothermia and potential hypoglycemia, both of which can be fatal.

It’s critical to know the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar because if left untreated, it can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.

Additionally, up to 40% of people with type 1 diabetes and between 10–15% of people with type 2 diabetes have some degree of hypo-unawareness.

The symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • shakiness
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • sweating
  • rapid heart rate
  • nervousness
  • hunger
  • trouble concentrating
  • irritability

Other symptoms, often seen in severe low blood sugars, may also include:

  • unconsciousness
  • seizures
  • coma
  • in rare instances, death

Low blood sugar is considered a medical emergency, sometimes requiring immediate 911 medical assistance.

In people with diabetes, hypothermia can be a sign of severely low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. This happens in response to extremely depressed levels of glucose in the central nervous system (neuroglycopenia), and usually when blood sugar levels are too low for shivering to occur (which helps maintain body temperature stasis).

If someone is hypothermic, their body will become insulin resistant and will reduce insulin secretion in an attempt to reserve glucose reserves in the body, potentially causing hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) episodes.

However, in newborn babies, hypothermia can actually cause low blood sugar levels. In an attempt to stay warm, babies can quickly use up their glycogen and glucose stores, resulting in hypoglycemia.

Low blood sugar levels can become fatal if left untreated. It’s important to know the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which include shakiness, sweating, confusion, dizziness, and fatigue.