If you have type 2 diabetes, getting through the flu might mean more than just the usual meds and bed rest. Over-the-counter cold medications should be chosen carefully. Don’t just take something because your colleagues are taking it or the commercial on TV was convincing.

Consulting with your doctor, especially if there will be changes in your current medication dose, is of utmost importance. You wouldn’t want to deal with the more serious implications later on.

Go Sugar-Free on Your Cold Medicine

Internist Danny Sam, M.D., told EverydayHealth.com that most cold and flu medications contain high glucose, especially cough syrups. Sam specializes in adult diabetes and is the Residency Program Director at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California.

He strongly suggests getting sugar-free cold medicine. Seek out the help of your pharmacist if you have trouble looking for it, but in most cases, every pharmacy carries a sugar-free cold or flu medicine, so it’s not a problem.

More Blood Sugar Checks

Sam adds that when you are ill, your diabetes is not well controlled, no matter how sufficiently you follow your usual protocols. This is because, in response to an infection, your body releases a series of chemical reactions that result in a change in your glucose and insulin response.

This is why it is imperative to check your blood sugar more often than usual. The recommendation is to check your blood sugar at least four times a day. If your level goes higher than 300 mg/dL, you should also check for ketones in your urine.

Over the counter cold and flu medications aren’t the only ones that can affect your blood sugar levels, the following drugs can also affect you if you take them whilst sick:

  • Can lower blood sugar levels: Aspirin and some antibiotics (if taking oral diabetes medications)
  • Can raise blood sugar levels: Decongestants


Plan Modifications

Sam advises, “You have to monitor your blood sugar more frequently and you may have to adjust your meds.” Different health conditions cause either an increase in the blood sugar, or a decrease. For example, those who have diarrhea may suffer from low blood sugar.

Fortunately, your doctor should be able to instruct you on how to adjust your medications, especially if your blood sugar level remains higher than 240 mg/dL for more than 24 hours.

But if you want to prepare yourself before the storm comes, you can discuss with your doctor how to modify your medications, even before you get sick; this way you don’t go to them while covered in multiple layers of clothing and a blanket with a stuffed nose.

You will have to find out the range of blood sugar change that is acceptable, and what to do if it gets out of range. In the midst of all this, you should also know that continuously taking your diabetes medications is a must. Unless, of course, you’ve been instructed by your healthcare provider otherwise.

No Meds, No Problem

Flu comes and goes as the season changes. Fortunately you won’t feel like this all the time. Here are some simple tips and tricks that you can do to help alleviate your condition:

  • Water. Water. Water. There’s no better cure to combat dehydration, especially when you’re vomiting, than to drink a lot of fluids. Take small sips frequently.
  • Small bites. You will dread eating, but you should munch on small portions of soup or milk, or small quantities of wafers, apples, etc.
  • Take note. You should be able to remember all the medications that you took, for your diabetes and for your cough/cold, so you can refer to them later.

Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure.

Nobody wants to get the flu. So if you have type 2 diabetes, keeping your blood sugar controlled is your best bet. As mentioned before, if your blood sugar levels are spiking or declining, it’s harder for your body to fend off infections that can lead to flu.

Getting your flu vaccinations yearly, and other kinds of vaccines recommended for you, is also helpful.