Cold Medicines That Are Safe for Diabetes

Our expert pharmacist advises how to find over-the-counter cold and flu medications that are safe for your diabetes.

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Searching for relief for your runny nose, sore throat, or cough? Many over-the-counter cough, cold, and flu remedies list diabetes as an underlying condition that may indicate you should leave the medication on the shelf. The warnings are clear: "Ask a doctor before use if you have: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes." Unfortunately, your doctor is not along for the trip to the pharmacy.

Because illness causes your body to release stress hormones that naturally raise blood glucose, you'll want to be sure that over-the-counter medications won't increase blood glucose levels, too.

Simple Is Best for Cold Medicines
Keep it simple by choosing an over-the-counter medication based on the types of ingredients proven to relieve your particular symptoms. Often a medication with just one ingredient is all you need to treat your symptoms rather than agents with multiple ingredients. "To choose the correct medication, take time to speak to a pharmacist," says Jerry Meece, R.Ph., CDE, of Gainesville, Texas. "The proper remedies may not only make you feel better, but also cut the length of the illness and possibly save you a trip to the doctor."

Oral cold and flu pills are often a better choice than syrups with the same ingredients because the pills may contain no carbohydrate. If you decide to use a syrup, look for one that is sugar-free. If you can't find one, the small amount of sugar in a syrup will likely affect your blood sugar less than the illness itself, Meece says.

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