Achoo! Which Cough and Cold Medicines are Right for You?

By: Linda Watts

Managing diabetes alone is tough enough. Add a cough or cold and health management becomes even more time consuming and possibly dangerous.

“If a cold and/or cough plagues a diabetic’s body,” says Keith Campbell, RPh, CDE, “this will cause the body to put out ‘stressors,’ therefore making BGs rise. So even before you get into the aspect of cough and cold medicine, the primary aspect of care should be checking BGs often.”

While cough and cold medicines offer symptomatic relief, they do not help the immune system rid the body of the cold.

Many medications labeled “decongestants” contain ingredients that may raise BGs and blood pressure. Campbell says that they can make you feel like you’re having an insulin reaction. Antihistamines can make any user sleepy, but pose no additional risks to persons with diabetes.

If you take a medicine which contains alcohol, doctors recommend that you eat beforehand, as the alcohol can cause BGs to fall too low.

The ADA recently stated that it’s OK for persons with diabetes to have a small amount of sugar in their diet. So as long as BGs are being checked regularly, sugared medicines can be used as doses can be adjusted to maintain good BGs.

But as Kathy Scotti of Scot-Tussin points out, “Who wants their allocation of sugar to be in the form of cough syrup?”

To be on the safe side, it is best to take medicines specifically designed for people with diabetes. These products contain no sugar or alcohol. Scot-Tussin, which has been in the business since 1956, released the first sugar-free cough and cold medicine products. Their products contain no alcohol, dye, sodium, sorbitol, artificial sweeteners or sugars.

Cough syrup specifically made for people with diabetes essentially comes in two forms – cough suppressants and expectorants. If you are congested in the chest and air passageways and the phlegm does not seem to be moving, it is best to use an expectorant to loosen the phlegm and thin bronchial secretions. This rids the passageways of bothersome mucus.

If you have a dry hacking cough which seems to be unproductive in moving the phlegm, a DM should be used to soothe the cough. Usually, if the pharmaceutical company labels a medicine “DM” it contains both an expectorant and a cough suppressant.

If the cough persists for more than one week, Scot-Tussin recommends consulting a doctor. Other methods of comforting a cough without affecting BGs are to use a humidifier or vaporizer, and drink extra fluids.

“Bottle labels should definitely be read before taking any medicine,” Scotti says. “as drug interactions can occur with diabetes medications. Also, it should be noted that dosages for adults and children vary.”



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