Learning About Over the Counter Cough Medicine and Diabetes: A Safe Approach

Over the Counter Cough Medicine and Diabetes: A Safe Approach

The “common cold” may cause some patients with diabetes to worry about elevations in their blood sugar. When you get sick, your body is under a lot of stress. Your body tries to make up for this stress by releasing hormones to fight the sickness. These hormones may cause your blood sugar levels to rise. There is no cure for the common cold; we have to help with symptoms that we are suffering.  One of the annoying symptoms is a cough. There are 2 main ingredients over the counter helpful for a cough, yet so many products on the shelf.  You will find that they contain one if not both of these medications and may be mixed with pain medication or medicine for congestion.  This can be confusing, especially if when worried about raising blood sugar levels. Keep in mind is that suffering from cold symptoms usually is short term barring any complications.  It is temporary and soon you will be feeling better.

There are two main types of cough- a wet, mucus cough and a dry, hacking cough.  They are treated differently.  When you want to get rid of the mucus in your lungs (wet cough) this is treated with an expectorant – guaifenesin.  A dry cough is treated with a cough suppressant –dextromethorphan.

Guaifenesin is an expectorant that helps break up and clear mucus in your lungs.  It is available in tablet and liquid form.  The tablets, available 600 mg or higher, are more potent, and work better than the smaller doses available in a syrup as 100 mg.

For a dry cough, the most effective medication is dextromethorphan.  This is available in a syrup, tablet or capsule form. This medication will work in your brain’s cough center to make you less likely to cough. Although the medication is available as a syrup you only need to take 2-4 teaspoons full per day.  The likelihood of this small volume of cough syrup causing a significant impact on your blood sugars is very low.  If you are concerned, choose the pill form.  Being sick in general is the more likely culprit.  You also hopefully will only need this product for a few days while suffering from symptoms. You may want to check your blood sugars more frequently, especially if you inject insulin. You may need additional units; more from being sick than from the small amount of cough syrup.

There are cough syrups with both guaifenesin and dextromethorphan. This combination is probably not useful; one product helps you break mucus so you can expectorate it and the other to stop a cough.  Pick one or the other.  You can use an expectorant during the day and a cough suppressant at bedtime if you can’t sleep because of a cough.

You have probably noticed cough medicines labeled “sugar free” marketed to patients with diabetes. Usually this product contains both guaifenesin and dextromethorphan. So you don’t need both products.

If you have a cold, it is important to make sure you take all of your maintenance medications, including your insulin. When looking for a cough medicine, consider single active-ingredient products. Read your labels and ask the pharmacist or your health care provider if you are not sure. Consider cough medicines in pill form as your first choice.Remember to make healthy food choices, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of rest. For more information on treating diabetes when you are sick see: http://diabetesdailypost.com/understanding-sick-days-when-you-have-diabetes/

 

This Article is Brought to you By Our Guest Staff Writers:
Ellie Kang, PharmD candidate 2017
Jacob Oleck, Pharm.D., Fellow, MCPHS University
Jennifer Goldman, Pharm.D., CDE, BC-ADM, FCCP Professor of Pharmacy Practice, MCPHS University Clinical Pharmacist, Well Life Medical‎‎

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