By Danielle Braff

You’ve got diabetes and the common cold. But don’t grab that cold medication so quickly: While small doses of medications with sugar are usually OK, you should ask your pharmacist if there are sugar-free options, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Many medications for short-term illnesses like colds can affect your blood-sugar levels. For example, oral decongestants can raise your blood glucose levels, the ADA says, by preventing insulin secretion, decreasing glucose uptake into peripheral tissues and stimulating glycogen breakdown. Your blood pressure can rise because of the constricting effect on blood vessels.

Before using a decongestant, check with your doctor, who may tell you to take a lower dose or who will have you take it at a specific time of day to limit the side effects, according to the Canadian Diabetes Care Group.

Topical decongestants like nasal sprays tend to have fewer side effects. However, the bigger issue with these is, when you use them for longer than recommended, or longer than two or three days, your symptoms may return and be worse than before, or could even become chronic.

Antihistamines could help with colds, and they don’t tend to have a negative effect on blood sugar levels, nor do expectorants, which are used to loosen respiratory tract secretions to make coughs more productive. These are found in single-ingredient products like Robitussin Plain and Benylin-E, or could be combined with other ingredients in multi-symptom cold products.

A cold in general could cause your blood sugars to elevate, so you may want to contact your doctor to see if extra help is needed.

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