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November 23, 2002

Sick Days

Question from Des Plaines, Illinois, USA:

In the past, I have given my four year old son who has type 1 diabetes, regular children's over-the-counter cold and cough medicines, but we have been struggling with a new insulin pump start, and I am hesitant to use anything that may raise his blood sugar. He has a cold, and the symptoms are sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes. The only sugar free medicine I can find is a cough suppressant and expectorant. Is this my only choice if I want to use something that will not effect his blood sugar levels? If so, how drastically will a product that contains sugar but better matches his symptoms effect him? It is my understanding that a decongestant will raise blood sugar levels. Does that really leave me with the choice of either raising his blood sugar and treating his symptoms or ignoring his symptoms but leaving his blood sugar levels unaffected? I tried to research this but can't find any acceptable answer. There are numerous choices for those unconcerned with the effect on blood sugars. I just want the same choices.


While sugar free medicines are generally to be preferred, they are not always available. It’s also true to say that the effect of small doses of sugar on the overall picture when someone is unwell with high sugars anyway is probably negligible, and you can adjust insulin doses to compensate.