Innocent OTC medicine decisions can be unintentionally fatal

  • Published
  • By Melanie Moore
  • Air Force District of Washington Public Affairs
Over the holidays my daughter came home from college for a visit... and brought along her germs. First her dad caught it and was out sick the whole holiday. Then, on New Years Day, I started getting sick.

We did what we always do. Take day cold medicine during the day, and night cold medicine at night; supplementing throughout the day with flu and cough medicines. It was what I had always done for the flu. And it worked for my husband, so it would work for me too, right?


The more medicine I took, the sicker I got. When I went back to work, I almost didn't make it back home that night. I pulled over twice because I was really ill. When I got home, I couldn't even sleep all night because of a pounding headache and toes feeling like they would explode.

I gave up and went to the doctor and guess what -- my tried and true methods for battling a cold could have killed me! You see, I am a diabetic. I didn't realize that the cold medicine I was using had a lot of sugar in it. This caused my blood sugars to go over 350. On top of that, I was treating the wrong symptoms. I was also worried about missing work, which made my blood pressure go up.

I was lucky my doctor got me back on track.

What I had was a sinus infection, not the flu. She made me go home and take antibiotics, a basic antihistamine, and sugarless cough medicine -- which is hard to find over the counter. Now I am on the road to recovery and can see a difference already. I can see that the right medicine for the right symptoms works better. I learned some pretty important lessons that I will leave with you.

1. If you are a sick diabetic, go to the doctor. You have special needs.
2. If you are a diabetic, check to see the sugar content in the over-the-counter drugs you use.
3. Cartons can be confusing. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to find out what you should be taking. I was taking stuff for the flu, when what I had was a sinus infection. And just because it works for your spouse doesn't mean it will work for you.
4. Work will wait. You have a team back there that will pick up the ball and run with it. Stay home and get better.

Hope this helps someone else. I am not a new diabetic. I follow all the rules. But sometimes we forget the little stuff that turns into the big stuff if gone unchecked. Be careful out there. We are all special and we can't forget that.