Over-the-counter items allow you to self-medicate mild health issues for a short period of time. Consider having these in your medicine cupboard:
For coughs and colds, choose a product that will treat your current symptoms. Avoid products containing many ingredients to treat many symptoms. Always read the label to find out what symptom the product treats. Check the safety information for side effects, problems mixing with other drugs you may be taking, or health problems that are a concern with this drug. Avoid cough and cold medicines that contain alcohol. Do not use medicines that contain sugar, such as sucrose, maltose, dextrose or fructose. With sugar-free products, you do not need to account for their carbohydrate value. Sugar-free products containing sorbitol can cause diarrhea.
Decongestants can relieve your stuffy nose, but those taken by mouth can increase your blood glucose levels. Nasal decongestant sprays or drops should be used no longer than three days. After that, they tend to make nasal stuffiness worse instead of helping. Alternative treatments include drinking plenty of water, keeping the room humidified, and using a saline nasal spray. These strategies may relieve congestion without affecting blood glucose levels, and can be used for an unlimited time.
To ease a sore throat, try sugarless throat lozenges or gargling with warm salt water.
If you have a cough with no mucus, a cough suppressant like dextromethorphan may help. An expectorant like guaifenesin should help loosen a cough with mucus. Again, choose a product without alcohol or sugar.
Keep the following first aid items in a first aid kit or in your medicine cupboard:
Poison centres suggest that having syrup of ipecac and activated charcoal on hand is not necessary, as these are no longer recommended for treating home poisoning.
Supplies to store in your medicine cupboard (if they are not already with your diabetes supplies) are:
The best way to clean a simple wound is to wash the cut with soap and water, or flush it gently with normal saline or tap water. The pressure when flushing to cleanse a wound should be no stronger than what you would use to rinse your eyes. This prevents damaging new skin cells that are trying to close the wound. Hydrogen peroxide and other antiseptic solutions can slow healing time and are not recommended.
People with diabetes need to be careful in caring for a wound or ulcer, as small wounds can soon become large. Good blood glucose control will assist with wound healing. If healing is delayed or the wound changes, contact your doctor.
Take good care of your feet to avoid problems. Protect your feet from injury by wearing shoes that fit well. Every day, check inside your shoes for foreign objects or tears. Do not go barefoot. Wear clean socks every day, and align your socks and any seams carefully over your foot.
Get into a routine of checking your feet each day. Inspect and feel the top and bottom of your feet and in between your toes. You are looking for anything that is different or injured. Check for blisters, cuts, redness, hard skin, scratches, breaks in the skin, and hot or cold spots. Pay close attention to any blister or cut. Contact your doctor if there is redness, pain or swelling, or an area that is not healing properly. Wearing shoes that fit properly and using foot powder to dry feet may make your feet less prone to blisters. If a blister does form, use moleskin or cushioning donuts to keep the pressure off until it heals.
Once a day, wash your feet in tepid water, avoiding extreme water temperatures. Dry carefully, especially between your toes. Look at and treat any dryness with moisture restoring cream or lotion. Avoid getting lotion between your toes, as this may make skin tear and put you at risk for an infection. The area between the toes is a haven for infections like athlete's foot.
Bathe or shower in warm water, as hot water removes moisture from your skin. Gently pat your skin dry right away instead of letting the water evaporate and dry out your skin. You can use gentle cleansers, and mild or moisturizing soaps.
Moisturizers reduce dryness and irritation, and will make the skin surface appear smoother and softer. A good time to use moisturizers is after a bath or shower, when the skin is slightly damp.
Blood glucose levels can rise during an illness. You may not be eating regularly if you are not feeling well. During a stressful time of being ill or injured, follow these important guidelines.
Plan ahead, discuss strategies with your doctor or certified diabetes educator, and use the sick day plan that you have developed.
Some foot care products can be dangerous for people with diabetes. If you develop corns, calluses, or warts, do not treat them yourself at home. Cutting corns or calluses can lead to foot injuries. Do not use over-the-counter chemicals to remove these foot problems. Check with your doctor or a podiatrist to have them assessed and treated.
People with diabetes can experience dry or itchy skin. Many products are available to treat it. When choosing a moisturizer, look past the fancy packaging of the product and read the ingredient label. Moisturizers with fragrance can increase the chance of skin irritation. Avoid products that list alcohol as one of the first few ingredients.
To reduce evaporation of moisture from the outer layer of skin, moisturizers contain ingredients called occlusive agents. They give skin a soft, smooth look and feel. Occlusive agents include yellow and white petrolatum, lanolin, Eucerin®, wheat germ oil, olive oil, cocoa butter, simethicone, and dimethicone, to name a few. The occlusive agents usually are listed at the beginning of the ingredient label.
Other ingredients called humectants can be added to the softening and soothing or moisturizing base. These agents draw water to the top layer of the skin to hydrate it. Glycerin, propylene glycol, urea, butylene glycol, lactic acid, and lecithin are all examples. Other ingredients may be added, but may not increase moisture on your skin. Additional ingredients might include collagen, elastin, amino acids, proteins, aloe vera, allantoin, and liposomes.
Moisturizers come in a wide selection of lotions, creams and ointments. Many are either oil in water or water in oil preparations. The oil in water mixture can produce a cooling effect to relieve itching. The water in oil combination has a higher oil content, so that evaporation dries the skin less. However, these products may feel greasy.
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables should provide the vitamins and minerals you need. If you have diabetes, are your vitamin and mineral supplement needs different from someone without diabetes? People with poor glucose control may pass urine often. This can lead to a loss of water-soluble nutrients, and may warrant the use of a vitamin and mineral supplement.
If you choose to take a supplement, remember to keeping eating healthy foods. It is safe to take a daily multiple vitamin and mineral supplements that contains no more than 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowances. With vitamins and minerals, more is not necessarily better. Check with your pharmacist or doctor if you are considering taking supplement doses that exceed the recommended daily allowance.
Vitamins should be protected from excessive heat, light and moisture. House brand names are usually as good as advertised brand names, and often less expensive. Some synthetic vitamins, which are less costly, are thought to be as good as those from natural sources. Check with your pharmacist about which product would be best for you.
The number of herbal products on the market is growing. You may wonder if these products are safe and effective. ‘Natural’ is not the same as ‘safe,’ and there are concerns with a few. Herbal products can cause side effects, react with medication you take, or cause a problem with diseases including diabetes.
Consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking a vitamin and mineral supplement or herbal product. If you are taking one already, let your doctor and pharmacist know. It is very important to continue taking prescription medications as advised. Before making any changes or additions, check with your pharmacist or doctor.
Many products are available for home health care in the over-the-counter section of your pharmacy. When choosing a product, read the label carefully. No drug is completely free of side effects. Some over-the-counter drugs can cause negative effects, and some should be avoided or used with caution in certain illnesses. As well, there can be a risk of an interaction between over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Ask your pharmacist to recommend the most suitable product for you. Your pharmacist can do a personalized medication assessment to check if an over-the-counter product will react with any over-the-counter or prescription medications you are taking. This will confirm that the medication is safe for your diabetes, or for any other medical condition you may have. Alternatives that do not use medication may also be suggested. Having all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy is a good idea, as it gives your pharmacist all the information necessary to advise you.