While you may already know that common cold and flu medications contain hard-to-pronounce chemicals designed to make symptoms more bearable, did you know that many of them also contain sugar? Just like Mary Poppins sang, a “spoonful of sugar” is meant to help the medicine go down by masking the taste of the chemicals working to reduce congestion, quell your cough and soothe away your body aches. For diabetics, this can pose a serious risk as sugar-filled medicine can make it difficult to manage blood sugar levels. Find out which cold and cough medicines raise blood sugar and how to find a safer alternative to ease symptoms.
Can Certain Cold & Cough Medicines Raise Blood Sugar?
Sugar is often added to cold and cough medications (particularly cough syrup) to improve taste. How much sugar a product contains depends on the medication, though it isn’t always easy to measure. According to Miranda Wilhelm, PharmD, clinical associate professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy, the sugar in cold and cough medicines does have the potential to increase blood glucose levels even if the label doesn’t list sugar under its active ingredients section.1 What diabetics should be paying attention to are the inactive ingredients, which contain flavorings, colorings and pill binders where sugar is typically found hiding.
Beyond sugar, cold and cough medicines may still pose a risk for diabetics because of a common ingredient called suphedrine (found in Sudafed), a nasal decongestant. Suphedrine has the ability to raise blood pressure and potentially increase blood glucose, making it unsafe for people with diabetes.
Alcohol is another ingredient that diabetics should be wary of. Some cold medications, like NyQuil, contain alcohol meant to help the active ingredients dissolve. However, alcohol also has the ability to affect blood glucose levels in ways that can be detrimental to diabetics, says Wilhelm.
Treating Cold & Cough Symptoms if You Have Diabetes
Because people with diabetes have compromised immune systems compared to people without diabetes, it is crucial to find safe ways to treat cold and cough symptoms when they arise.2 The CDC has even put together sick day guidelines designed to help diabetics prepare for illness and tips to manage symptoms before they worsen because colds and flus too often lead to complications like pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections, which may require hospitalization.3 If you do get sick, it is important to test your blood sugar more often. Your body releases hormones to fight pathogens and these hormones may also raise blood sugar levels, increasing how much insulin you need.
As far as treating symptoms, consider a homeopathic medication made without sugar, alcohol or other harsh chemicals, which can help your body recover faster without harmful side effects or contraindications. The following tips will also support your recovery:
Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
Aim to eat as you normally do, consuming 50 grams of carbs every four hours
Check your temperature every morning or evening as a fever may indicate an infection
If you are taking insulin or other medication for diabetes, continue taking as directed by your physician
The Importance of Sugar Free
If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, adhering to a particular diet plan is crucial to managing your blood sugar levels. Health care providers and dietitians can help you design a diet plan that works best for you and finding safe cough medicine for diabetes helps you stick with that plan even when you’re feeling ill. Since diabetes is characterized by abnormally high levels of sugar, or glucose, in the bloodstream, opting for sugar-free products is key for diabetics.
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Brillia Health for Diabetics
Containing no alcohol or harsh chemicals, Brillia Health products are safe homeopathic cold and cough medications for diabetics that are available without a prescription. Using antibody science to reduce cold and flu symptoms like nasal congestion, wet and dry coughs and body aches, Brillia Health products have no contraindications with other drugs like those prescribed for people with diabetes.
While Brillia Health Cold-Flu Recovery does use sugar in the form of lactose, we have found that many of our patients have been able to add it to their reimen and still be able to manage their blood sugar levels with Type 1 diabetes. Other active ingredients help your body fight off viral infections by targeting the molecules in your system that respond to illness, kicking your immune system into gear while reducing both the severity and duration of your illness. Find out more about how Brillia Health products work.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.