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    Diabetes and Colds and the Flu: Your OTC Medicine Guide



    If you have diabetes, you don't have to suffer with cold and flu symptoms. Learn which cold medicines can relieve your cough and congestion without affecting your blood sugar levels.




    Cold and flu season typically gets up and running in early fall and can last until May. It can be an especially trying time for those managing diabetes since they can be more susceptible to illness. If that weren't enough, sickness tends to cause stress, and stress hormones can affect your blood sugar. Diabetes and colds don't always mix well, but they can be safely managed.




    The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that every person with diabetes get an annual flu shot. For added safety, the ADA recommends that people you live or spend a lot of time with get one, too, since the flu shot is not 100 percent effective. This season, stay ahead of the game and talk to a Rite Aid Pharmacist about getting flu shots for you and your whole family. In addition to keeping up with your immunizations, it's recommended that you wash your hands frequently and avoid spending time with others who are ill so you can reduce your risk of contracting something.


    How to Choose the Right Medications for Relief of Cold and Flu Symptoms


    If you do end up getting sick this season, over-the-counter medication can provide some much-needed relief, and luckily most over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medications are considered safe for people with diabetes, as long as they're taken as directed. Even so, you should check with your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist before you begin a new medication, especially if you're taking other medications for additional conditions.


    Choosing OTC medications that have a single active ingredient to treat a specific symptom (as opposed to multiple ingredients to treat multiple symptoms) is a better option. Think about it: the more active ingredients a medication has, the higher the chances that one will compromise your medication for diabetes or other conditions.


    If you decide to take OTC medication to ease your symptoms, make sure you:


    1. Check your blood sugar levels more often than usual and watch for any unusual changes.

    2. Check urine ketones with test strips.

    3. Stay hydrated.

    4. Eat, even if your appetite is diminished.


    Some medications can interact with your blood sugar levels, so it's good to do your research ahead of time. Here are some OTC medications to help you with cold and flu symptom relief, and what to look out for:


    Congestion: Oral decongestants can raise your blood sugar. They can still be safe to take, but you may need to adjust your diabetes medication or the dose of decongestant you take. If you're looking for something that won't alter your glucose levels, a saline nasal spray can provide some relief of the discomfort that comes with a stuffed-up nose.


    Coughs: Although cough syrups may not be tasty, they do contain a good amount of sugar. While the recommended dose may not have profound effects on your glucose levels, sugar-free cough syrups are the safest option for people with diabetes.


    Pain and fever: Pain and fever relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen can help—and safely. If you have kidney issues, check with your doctor before taking these pills. It's critical to note that aspirin should never be given to children or teenagers with flu-like symptoms or chicken pox due to the possibility of Reye's Syndrome—a rare but serious condition that causes the brain and liver to swell. Use caution when administering medication to children and always read the labels on medicine bottles.


    By Joelle Klein




    Diabetes Forecast, Common Cold Remedies


    Diabetic Living, Cold Medicines that Are Safe for Diabetes


    Diabetes Forecast, Sick-Day Rules for Managing Diabetes


    Diabetes Self-Management, Planning Ahead for Sick Days


    Joslin Diabetes Center, Diabetes and Sick Days: What Meds are OK


    American Diabetes Association, When You're Sick


    Diabetes Care Group, Treating the Common Cold and Type 2 Diabetes


    Diabetes Self-Management, Sneezes and Wheezes: Seasonal Allergies and Diabetes


    Mayo Clinic, Reye's Syndrome


    Bayer HealthCare, Bayer® Safety Coated 81 mg (Regimen) Aspirin Drug Facts

    These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.