Living with type 2 diabetes requires you to carefully consider the products you consume, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications for cold symptoms like sore throat and chest congestion. “Is there a cough syrup that is safe to take if you are a diabetic?” one DiabetesTeam member asked.
When selecting a cough medicine, people living with diabetes need to be aware of certain factors to ensure the product is safe for their diabetes and effective for their cough.
In this article, we will explore five characteristics people with type 2 diabetes should look for when choosing cough medicine. Remember, it’s always important to consult with your doctor before starting any new medications, including over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbal remedies.
Opting for sugar-free or low-sugar cough syrups is particularly important for people living with diabetes. Many cough suppressants contain added sugars to improve taste, but the added sugar may raise your blood glucose (sugar) levels. Members who’ve tried liquid cough syrup have immediately realized how much sugar is in most of these products. “I don’t use cough syrup often, hence why it was such a shock how sweet it was,” one DiabetesTeam member shared.
The following tips can help you when looking for a low-sugar option:
With a little shopping around and the medical advice of a pharmacist or health care provider, you should be able to find a cough medicine that won’t spike your blood sugar.
Many people forget to consider potential drug interactions between prescription and over-the-counter medications. Check the back of your cough medicine for its active ingredients before taking it. Common active ingredients include dextromethorphan, guaifenesin, and antihistamines.
Some cough medicines may interact with medications used to treat diabetes, such as insulin or oral diabetes drugs. Always check with your health care provider or pharmacist to ensure that the cough medicine you plan to take won’t interfere with your diabetes medication or worsen your condition.
Further, if you have any complications of diabetes — such as kidney disease or high blood pressure — speak to your doctor or pharmacist about what over-the-counter cold medicine will not worsen your other conditions. For example, many cough and cold medicines contain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, which are not usually recommended for people with chronic kidney disease.
It is always important to remember that OTC drugs are still drugs that have the potential to interact with your other medications or to worsen a pre-existing condition. When starting a new OTC cold medication — especially mixed cold and flu treatment that contains multiple active ingredients — it’s important to get approval from a health care provider who knows your health and medication history.
Some cough medicines may contain alcohol as an added ingredient. Alcohol can interfere with diabetes medications and contribute to changes in blood sugar levels. One member said, “The warning on one of my diabetes medications states: ‘Do not drink alcohol while taking this drug.’”
Although heavy drinking can cause life-threatening complications for people with diabetes, the small amount of alcohol in cough medicine is unlikely to have a huge impact on your diabetes management. Even so, whenever you can, avoid cough medicines that contain alcohol to maintain stable blood glucose control and maintain the effectiveness of your medications.
Consider the dosing schedule of the cough medicine. Some cough suppressants require taking a dose every few hours. This can pose challenges for individuals with diabetes who need to carefully manage their medication schedule. Especially when you’re feeling sick, it can be easy to forget to take all of your medications at the right time.
Look for long-acting cough medicines with longer intervals between doses, as this can be less overwhelming to remember alongside your current diabetes medication plan. You can purchase long-acting regimens in the forms of gel pills, which slowly release the medication into your body over the course of hours.
Choose cough medicines from known brands that have passed testing for safety and effectiveness. Look for products that have been approved by regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that you are using a trustworthy medication without too many harmful side effects.
The type of cold medication you should take depends on your specific symptoms. For a dry cough, look for products that contain dextromethorphan (such as Robitussin). If you have a chesty cough that produces phlegm, look for products that contain guaifenesin (such as Mucinex).
Remember, everyone’s diabetes treatment plan is unique, so it’s important to consult your doctor before starting any new over-the-counter medication. They can provide personalized advice and address any concerns you may have about how cough medicine or other OTC medications may affect your diabetes and blood sugar levels.
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How do you manage cough and cold symptoms? What factors do you keep in mind when taking OTC medications while living with diabetes? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.