Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Cold and Flu Treatments for Diabetes

Catching a cold or the flu is no fun. It can be even worse if you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Learn more now about cold and flu treatments for diabetes so you'll be ready when you start to feel the aches, pains, and sniffles associated with colds and flu.

How Colds and Flu Affect Diabetes

Colds and flu themselves, as well as cold and flu treatments, can all make it harder to manage diabetes. Here are some reasons why:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea all make your blood sugar levels rise.
  • Infections can make your blood sugar levels rise.
  • A lack of appetite can lead to dehydration, which can leave blood sugar levels too low.
  • When under excess stress, such as during an illness, your body creates too many ketones, a waste product that means your body is not using glucose well. This is more likely if you have type 1 diabetes.
  • Some over-the-counter cold and flu treatments contain sugar, which can make your blood sugar levels higher.
  • Flu can lead to pneumonia and other serious health problems. People with diabetes are three times more likely to die from these conditions than the general public.

The Flu Shot and Diabetes

Prevention is the best medicine, whether or not you have diabetes. You can prevent many types of flu -- or keep flu viruses from making you so ill -- by getting a flu shot every year. September may be the best month to do it, because the shot protects you for about six months.

While you're at it, ask your doctor about the pneumonia shot. People with diabetes who are over age 2 should get the pneumonia vaccination. People with diabetes who are older than age 65 should get the vaccination if five years have elapsed since their last one. Ask your doctor about this. The pneumonia shot can also help protect you from blood infections and meningitis.

 

Which Cold and Flu Treatments Are OK for Diabetes?

The main problem for people with diabetes is that some cold and flu drugs, such as cough syrups, may contain sugar. Have your doctor or pharmacist recommend over-the-counter drugs that are safe for you. Write down their names for future reference.

Have a Sick-Day Plan if You Have Diabetes

Before you even get sick with a cold or flu, have a sick-day plan if you have diabetes. Your doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator can help you create a sick-day plan. Your plan should include:

  • Checking your blood sugar levels every four hours, or as often as recommended by your doctor.
  • Testing for ketones if your blood sugar level is over 240 mg/dL. Call your doctor if any ketones are present.
  • Taking your temperature regularly.
  • Drinking one cup of liquid every hour you are awake. Water and broth are good choices.
  • Trying to eat 45-50 grams of carbohydrate every three to four hours. If you cannot eat something solid, try clear soup, regular soft drinks, Popsicles, unsweetened applesauce, apple juice, or sports drinks.
  • Continuing to take insulin or other diabetes medications, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections