However, you can reduce your risk of catching a cold. If you feel you might be coming down with one, take extra care of yourself to ward illness off. If you do become sick, you can manage the impact illness has on your blood glucose control.
The common cold is caused by a virus. It usually lasts five to seven days, and often begins with a runny nose and sneezing. A sore throat, a mild headache and a cough may be present. Fever does not usually accompany cold symptoms, but if it does, the fever is not high.
Antibiotics will not help a cold. It usually just needs to ‘run its course.’
Your first line of defense involves taking good care of yourself. You are more likely to catch colds if you are run down and under stress, not eating well or getting enough sleep.
Wash your hands frequently, especially during cold season. Be sure to scrub up when cooking and eating, before taking and giving medication, and if you are around someone who is sick. You are likely to pick up the virus when touching a contaminated surface like a telephone or door handle. If you cannot wash, use a hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, since a cold virus often enters through them.
Controlling your diabetes means it is key to plan ahead for illness. Talk to your diabetes team about sick day management, so you know what to do in advance.
If you get sick, be sure to drink lots of fluids, especially water. Avoid sweetened beverages like juice. Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and dispose of them immediately. Keep washing your hands.
You may turn to medication to help you feel better. An overwhelming number of different cough and cold remedies can be found in the pharmacy.
If you take more than one product, you may get duplicate ingredients that you do not need. To avoid this problem, resist choosing a product that treats many symptoms. Instead, consider the specific symptoms you have when you select a product. Do you have a stuffy nose and a cough? Do you need pain relief? Ask your pharmacist for advice, and find the right remedy for your current symptoms.
Keep in mind that some cough syrups have sugar in them, which may affect your blood glucose levels.
Blood glucose levels may increase when your body is under siege from a cold. You will likely need to do additional blood glucose monitoring. It is recommended that you test every three to four hours while sick. Avoid cough and cold medications that contain sugar, sucrose, maltose, dextrose or fructose, and those containing alcohol.
Oral decongestants, which treat stuffy noses, can increase blood glucose levels. Nasal decongestant sprays should not be used for more than five days in a row. However, a saline nasal spray will help relieve congestion and will not affect blood glucose levels.
You may not feel like eating while you are sick. Still, in order to prevent low blood glucose, it is important to try to eat. Foods that are easy on the stomach include broths, crackers, and applesauce.
Some natural health products on the market have a reputation for preventing or treating colds. If you have diabetes, you need to understand how a product might affect your blood glucose management. Natural health products are medications. To avoid issues, consult your pharmacist before you take any product.
If symptoms last longer than 10 days or you do not get any better after a week, see a doctor to rule out other types of infections.
A high fever, aches, headache and fatigue signal that you have a virus other than a cold. The illness in this case is likely the flu. Consult your doctor as soon as possible, and begin sick day management.
As mentioned earlier, it is critical to have a sick day management plan in place before you get sick. Getting your yearly flu shot in the fall will help prevent some flu strains from attacking. As always, don’t hesitate to ask your local pharmacist any questions you might have!
Common cold medications
|Symptom||Suggested Treatment||Active ingredient||Found in||Caution! Side Effects|
|Stuffy nose, sinus pressure, nasal congestion||decongestant||• pseudoephedrine
• other nasal sprays
Sinutab Tylenol Cold Drixoral
|Non-drowsy – watch use at bedtime, stimulating. Only use nasal spray decongestants for a maximum of five days in a row.
Can affect blood pressure and glucose levels.
|Runny nose||antihistamine||• chlorpheniramine
|Drowsiness, dry mouth.
Use with caution with glaucoma or prostate disease.
|Dry cough||cough suppressant||• dextromethorphan (DM)
|Use DM with caution if taking medications for depression or anxiety.
Codeine, diphenhydramine may cause drowsiness. Codeine may constipate.
|Fever, aches, pain,
|pain or fever reducer||• acetaminophen
|Use recommended dose. High levels of ASA may lower glucose levels.|
Common natural health products for colds
|Product||Suggested Use||Does it work?||What to watch for||Recommendation|
(North American ginseng)
|Advice is to take it daily to prevent colds, or take it at the onset of a cold.||Evidence is not clear whether this product works. Studies have shown it does not reduce the severity or length of a cold.||May cause hypoglycemia in people who have diabetes. Interacts with many medications, including warfarin.||Avoid taking due to risk of low blood glucose and little evidence that it helps with colds.|
|Echinacea||This herb is suggested to prevent and treat cold symptoms.||Does not work for preventing colds, and not much evidence to show that it works as treatment.||May reduce or increase blood glucose levels, interacts with some medications.||Not advised due to risk of interactions with medications and possible blood glucose changes.|
|Vitamin C||This vitamin is suggested for preventing colds.||Scientific studies generally suggest that vitamin C does not prevent the onset of cold symptoms.||Usually safe but large doses may cause stomach upset or diarrhea.||Instead of taking supplements, maintain a balanced diet.|
Be sure to consult with your pharmacist or doctor before taking these or any other herbal supplements.