For relief from itching, sneezing, and runny nose, you might reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) medication such as an antihistamine, which millions have used safely, Bernstein says.
"But when you're throwing something like issues around blood sugar into the mix, you need to be a little more aware of the potential things that can occur."
One in five people who use antihistamines become drowsy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). "So if you take a nap and miss a meal, you can wake up with low blood sugar," Bernstein says. Look for newer antihistamines with less of a sedative effect or talk with a pharmacist about the side effects of various medications.
To unclog a stuffy nose, you might choose an OTC or prescription nasal spray, but you might not know that some contain steroids. "Steroids stimulate the liver to make more glucose [blood sugar], so now your liver is beginning to make more sugar," Bernstein says. "And if you're not aware of this, you might be surprised and ask, ‘Why are my numbers high?'"
Ask your doctor or pharmacist about nasal sprays without steroids. You have two choices: an OTC decongestant nasal spray or an OTC antihistamine nasal spray. If you choose the decongestant spray, don't use it for more than 3 days, cautions the AAFA. It may make congestion worse, even after you stop using it.
To relieve a dry, scratchy throat or a cough, check the label and choose a sugar-free brand.