Do Chilly and Allergy Medicines Have an effect on Blood Sugar?

Medically reviewed by Anna Goldman, MD.

Earlier than I got here down with a nasty chilly final February, it had been years since I’d been sick — not even COVID-19 felled me. So, my medication chest and I had been unprepared with over-the-counter meds once I awoke with a sore throat from post-nasal drip, a foul cough, and a stuffy nostril. I dragged myself over to the neighborhood drug retailer to purchase cough treatment, cough drops, and a decongestant. However I used to be in no situation to take care of an aisle overflowing with each triangulation of choices, and had no thought what influence any given treatment would have on my blood sugar. I lastly wilted below the strain and made some random choices so I may get again house and crawl into mattress.

If this has occurred to you, too, the hope is that this text will make clear find out how to choose the precise treatment. Ideally, you’ll do that whenever you’re feeling nicely, forward of coming down with a chilly, flu, or seasonal allergic reactions. That means you possibly can replenish on over-the-counter meds so must you get sick, you’re ready to handle your self with out additionally impacting your blood sugar.


Perhaps you’re stuffed up as a result of you’ve a chilly. Or possibly you’ve allergic reactions. You probably have diabetes, you may need to be cautious of utilizing any product that options or consists of pseudoephedrine

In accordance with the Mayo Clinic, pseudoephedrine works to open your nasal passages by constricting the blood vessels within the nostril, which are inclined to swell with extra blood to battle an infection. Pseudoephedrine is an energetic ingredient in nasal decongestant merchandise together with:

  • Sudafed
  • Zyrtec-D
  • Allegra-D

However this ingredient could trigger blood glucose ranges to rise, together with blood strain and coronary heart price. In actual fact, the labels on these merchandise particularly embody diabetes of their record of circumstances wherein you must, “Ask a health care provider earlier than use if in case you have…”. 

We’re not conscious of any proof that pseudoephedrine causes critical blood sugar issues, but it surely could be sensible to observe these instructions and seek the advice of your physician first. 

Phenylephrine is one other frequent decongestant, often present in multisymptom drugs reminiscent of:

  • Advil Multi-Symptom Chilly & Flu
  • Sudafed PE
  • Vicks DayQuil Chilly & Flu. 

Phenylephrine, too, can enhance your blood sugar ranges, in accordance with the Mayo Clinic. There’s additionally one other good cause to query taking phenylephrine. In 2023, the FDA mentioned it might not work!

You probably have allergic reactions, you might be tempted to take an antihistamine like chlorpheniramine or diphenhydramine, which is the energetic ingredient in Benadryl. Whereas antihistamines don’t straight influence blood sugar, they’ll make you drowsy, which may make it tougher to trace your blood glucose ranges.

A nondrowsy antihistamine could be a greater possibility, reminiscent of:

Nonetheless an alternative choice for allergy victims is a category of medicine known as intranasal steroids or corticosteroids. This consists of nasal sprays like Flonase, with the energetic ingredient of fluticasone propionate. Although some steroid remedies can straight trigger hyperglycemia, at least one research has proven that intranasal steroids haven’t any influence on blood sugar ranges in individuals with diabetes. 

Simply bear in mind that some medicine mix a number of energetic elements, reminiscent of Zyrtec-D, which has each cetirizine and pseudoephedrine. Learn the label and test first together with your physician in the event you’re involved.

There are additionally nonmedical methods to ease congestion, in accordance with the Cleveland Clinic, together with:

  • Taking a scorching bathe 
  • Consuming scorching liquids like water, tea, and, sure, hen soup
  • Staying hydrated with water
  • Nasal irrigation utilizing a neti pot 
  • Consuming spicy meals
  • Use a humidifier
  • Use a saline nasal spray
  • Open up nasal passages by making use of an adhesive strip


There are two normal forms of cough medication. Cough suppressants make you cough much less typically. Expectorants assist you take away extra mucus whenever you cough.

The most typical OTC cough suppressant makes use of dextromethorphan, together with the next medicines and plenty of others:

  • Robitussin Most Energy (and plenty of different Robitussons)
  • Vicks Method 44
  • DayQuil Cough

The most typical expectorant is guaifenesin, present in Mucinex and plenty of different manufacturers. Dextromethorphan and guaifenesin are sometimes utilized in mixture; these mixture medicine typically have the initials DM of their names, reminiscent of Robitussin DM.

We may discover no indication within the analysis that both of those two elements is dangerous for individuals with diabetes. In actual fact, there’s one research exhibiting that dextromethorphan will increase insulin ranges and improves glucose tolerance amongst sort 2 diabetes sufferers. 

Although the energetic elements could also be completely protected, there’s a giant however right here, nonetheless: sugary “excipients” (inactive elements). Cough syrups and cough drops typically embody sugar for a wide range of causes.

Sadly, in the event you attempt to test the labels they record solely the ingredient names, not quantities, making it difficult to judge what number of carbs are in a single dose. Some sources report {that a} shot of NyQuil, for instance, has 19 grams of carbohydrates! In lots of circumstances, you possibly can decide as an alternative for diabetic variations that comprise synthetic sweeteners. 

Fever, Aches, and Ache Reduction

The ultimate part of a nasty chilly or flu will be fever, aches, or pains. Fever reducers are usually thought-about protected to take over-the-counter, however there just a few troubling experiences within the medical literature.

There may be some proof that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are related to unhealthy occasions in individuals with diabetes. NSAIDs can enhance insulin launch from beta cells, which may decrease blood sugar, however could trigger hypoglycemia in individuals utilizing glucose-lowering treatment reminiscent of sulfonylureas. Moreover, a 2023 research discovered that short-term use of NSAIDs is linked to coronary heart failure amongst individuals with sort 2 diabetes. After all, you must test together with your physician to search out out if you should use it brief time period.

The higher selection could also be acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to handle fever. There’s no proof that it impacts blood sugar ranges. However a 2019 research discovered that older sufferers with sort 2 diabetes taking acetaminophen had 3 times the chance of getting a stroke.

Acetaminophen has one other shocking impact. American Diabetes Affiliation states that some steady glucose monitor sensors will be affected by acetaminophen and provides false readings. The Dexcom G7, for example, could falsely present elevated readings in the event you take multiple gram of acetaminophen each six hours. However, FreeStyle Libre has discovered minimal influence and the producer has issued no warning. Learn your consumer guide to be taught if this could possibly be a possible concern.

Sick Day Administration

Being ailing with diabetes is usually a irritating and even harmful expertise as a result of sicknesses just like the flu may cause quickly escalating blood sugar ranges and enhance the chance of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). 

For those who haven’t thought-about find out how to plan for sick days within the context of getting diabetes, we now have some good ideas right here. Moreover, under are a number of takeaways that will help you wrap your head round find out how to deal with your physique whenever you’re downed with a chilly or seasonal allergic reactions whilst you’re residing with diabetes:

  • Be ready. Discuss together with your physician at your subsequent bodily or ship a word asking about what you possibly can and can’t take by way of over-the-counter drugs, after which replenish on them earlier than you might want them. Even have all the opposite provides you might want, like a thermometer, bins of facial tissues, adhesive respiration strips, a neti pot, a saline spray, hen or vegetable soup, decaffeinated tea, and a humidifier. 
  • Learn labels. Do not forget that many OTC medicines aren’t essentially stand-alone formulation. A chilly or allergy treatment could embody a wide range of energetic and inactive elements, and a few is probably not wholesome for individuals with diabetes. Make certain no matter is listed is protected for you. Solely choose what you want. You probably have a stuffy nostril from an allergy you in all probability don’t additionally want a cough suppressant. If the labels are complicated, converse to a pharmacist to get clarification on what your most suitable option is.
  • Be vigilant about measuring your blood sugar. Simply the bodily stress of being sick may cause your blood sugar to rise. 
  • Ask your physician in the event you ought to alter your insulin or oral drugs, particularly if the OTC meds may influence their effectiveness.
  • Be sure you have loads of your ordinary diabetes provides all the time available.


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