Ask the Diabetes Educator Archive

Q:

When taking insulin, can that persons breath or body odor smell like they have been drinking alcohol even if they haven't been drinking?

A:

Oh, Yes!!! This is "fruity breath", and is a sign that trouble might be on the way in the form of ketoacidosis. This happens when there is insufficient insulin so that blood sugars are not being taken into the cells. The body then perceives itself as "starving", and starts breaking down fat at a rapid rate. This is not a good "weight loss" technique; toxic fat particles are building up in the body to where, if left totally unchecked, may lead to coma and death. This can start happening when individuals forget to take their insulin or are very sick. If you notice this, be a good "Guardian Angel", and tell your friend what you notice. If insulin dosages have not been skipped, then a call to the health practitioner is in immediate order to see about dose adjustment.

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