Diabetes: How to Safely Take OTC Medicines for Cold or Flu

You’ve got a runny nose, sore throat, chest discomfort and fever. Is it a cold or the flu? The common cold and seasonal flu are both respiratory illnesses caused by viral infections. While they share many of the same symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish a cold from the flu based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense.

“The flu has an abrupt onset with more severe symptoms while a cold has a gradual onset and milder symptoms,” says Georgia based pharmacist Sara (Mandy) Reece, PharmD, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems. However, when you have diabetes, even a minor cold can make your diabetes harder to control and lead to serious complications. That’s why it’s essential to have a sick day plan. Ideally, you will talk with your healthcare team so they can individualize your plan of care before you get sick.

Reece who is Vice Chair and Associate Professor, Pharmacy Practice at the Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM) School of Pharmacy says “Common cold symptoms include sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat, mild to moderate chest discomfort and cough.” Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medications can be used to relieve these symptoms.

When considering which combination cold and cough product to purchase Reese says “select the product with the least number of primary ingredients to treat your symptoms.” Over-the-counter cold medicines include nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines, and pain relievers. “Choose the right OTC medicines for your symptoms and remember more ingredients are not better,” advises Reece.

Nasal decongestants help unclog a stuffy nose. Lauren Avery, PharmD Candidate, GA-PCOM, School of Pharmacy says “Allergies and the common cold may cause the tissue lining your nose to swell. Decongestants work by shrinking swollen blood vessels and tissues which relieves congestion.”

If you have