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Over The Counter Medications Dangerous To Diabetics

Updated on January 10, 2016

Non-prescription Medications Are Not for Everyone

Nonprescription or over the counter drugs are used by millions of people daily to treat everything from pain to runny noses. They are freely available as they have been tested thoroughly and deemed to be safe for most individuals. However, if you have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, some of these medications can prove dangerous.

Decongestants should only be used by diabetics under the supervision of a doctor. Decongestants can cause a decrease in the effectiveness of insulin and oral diabetic medications. For diabetics, decongestants may cause a dangerous rise in the levels of blood sugar.

Unlike decongestants, most COUGH SUPPRESSANTS, if taken in recommended doses are safe for people with diabetes. Similarly, expectorants which loosen phlegm and mucous are also safe for diabetics. One caution though, you must look for cough and expectorant medications that are sugar and alcohol free as both these ingredients should be avoided by diabetics. Ask your pharmacist for help finding an acceptable over-the-counter product.

THROAT LOZENGES, for the relief of sore throat and coughs, should be used with caution by diabetics as they often have added sugar. Sugar-free products are available which your pharmacist can point out to you.

CONSTIPATION MEDICATIONS used occasionally and in the recommended dosage are relatively safe for diabetics. The problem with these comes with over-usage which creates dependence. Always accompany usage with plenty of water and consult your physician if constipation is an ongoing problem.

PAIN AND FEVER MEDICATIONS should always be used cautiously by diabetics. Occasional use will have little effect on blood sugar levels. However, if you have diabetes along with kidney complications check with your doctor before using acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These can be toxic to both the liver and the kidneys if used in high doses or on a regular basis.

If you have a fever and are diabetic, you should be especially concerned as this may indicate an infection. With an infection, glucose monitoring is more important. Medication may need to be adjusted as infection may elevate blood sugars.

ALLERGY MEDICATIONS, as long as they are composed of non-sedating antihistamines, are safe for diabetics. If you have concerns about a particular product, consult your pharmacist. Everyone should be careful when taking any medication that causes drowsiness, especially if driving or operating machinery.

ANTACIDS, generally, are considered to be safe for diabetics. Some, however, do cause constipation or diarrhea, so if these are a concern, discuss your options with a pharmacist.

- - Become an avid label reader. Many products contain sugar and alcohol, especially the chewable variety.

- - Avoid over usage of nonprescription medications and stick to products that have the fewest active ingredients. The more active ingredients, the more potential side effects.

- - Check your blood sugar levels regularly especially if you are ill. For diabetics, vigilance is a must.


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    • billips profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Central Texas

      I wrote this article over a year ago when a friend, who suffers from diabetes, passed on what her doctor was telling her. I did some research and wrote the article. Have moved since then but will see if I can get my hands on my old notes. With luck I will get back to you. - B.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Where can I get a reference for this information? Thanks!


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