Safely Treat Cold Symptoms

'Tis the season of colds and flus.

The kids are back in school, bringing all the nasty little germs they get at school home with them. The person making your change at the grocery store is hacking and coughing. The person next to you on the train sneezed all the way to work.

As someone who has diabetes, what can you do to treat your cold and cough when it finally arrives?

Diabetes and the Common Cold

Yes, a cold or the flu is a dismal thing to have. Coughing, sneezing, fever, sore throat and body aches can interrupt your sleep, keep you home from work or school, and just generally make you miserable.

Your body is also reacting to the stress of being sick by releasing hormones that cause a natural rise in blood sugar levels. Fever, vomiting and diarrhea also raise your blood sugar. A lack of appetite can lead to lower blood sugar.

As a diabetic, these reactions just pile on the misery.

There are many, many treatments available over the counter (OTC), some treating a single symptom and others treating a phalanx of symptoms. Unfortunately, the fine print on many of them lists them as being unsuitable for diabetics.

What to do?

Keep It Simple

First, treat only what you have to. If you have a stuffy nose, maybe all you need is a decongestant. Are you sneezing and do you have a runny nose? Then an antihistamine might be your best bet.

A fever is a sign that your body's immune system is attacking the infection. If you can live with a lower level of fever, that's fine. There is nothing wrong, however, with taking a couple of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin if your fever gets above 100 or 101 degrees, if that keeps you more comfortable. Fevers higher than these should be reported to your doctor right away.

Sometimes it isn't good to get rid of a cough. Coughing is the body's way to rid itself of mucus. If your cough is keeping you awake, however, then by all means, take a cough suppressant. (Dextromethorphan is a common one.)

If your lungs have a lot of mucus, and you cannot bring it up, then an expectorant can be used. Guaifenesin is an expectorant that will thin the mucus and make it easier to break up. An alternative to using an expectorant is to drink extra fluids. It has the same effect in thinning the mucus building up along your inflamed airways.

Many so-called "cold formulas" contain all of these. If you are only suffering from a cough or some sneezing, then don’t take a bunch of other medications that you don't need. You won't feel any better if you do.

Look for Sugar-Free Brands

Many cough and cold medicines contain sugar. It is possible, however, to find appropriate medications that don't.

You can ask your physician for suggestions or talk to your pharmacist. Taking your medication in pill form, rather than syrup, can also help, as it is less likely that pills will contain carbohydrates.

If you are unable to find a brand without sugar, understand that the impact of the sugar in your system might well be less than the impact of the disease itself.

Prevention Above All

Diabetics are more susceptible to dying from the flu than the general public. For this reason, diabetics should get a flu shot every fall. The pneumonia shot is also a preventative of value to many diabetics. Ask your doctor about getting this shot as well.

As our mothers told us, we should all be getting lots of rest, eating right and making sure we wash our hands several times each day. Maintaining good health and good hygiene are the keys to warding off those nasty germs that surround us.

Sources: WebMD and Diabetic Living Online

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