Treatments to relieve allergy symptoms may impact blood glucose

Allergy season can be especially hard for diabetics, but there are a few things you can do to keep your diabetes under control.

Spring ushers in seasonal allergies. First, trees release pollen soon followed by summer grasses, rye and weeds generating hay fever. Allergens can be all the more intrusive for individuals with diabetes. Having diabetes may alter the body’s immune system and reaction to both allergy symptoms and allergy medications.

Even on a good day, keeping blood sugar levels where they should be, getting enough sleep, staying disciplined with medications or insulin along with exercising can be challenging. What about the days when we aren’t feeling well? If you have diabetes, you know that being under-the-weather from seasonal allergies may affect how you manage your diabetes.

Allergies, medications and managing your diabetes

Allergies themselves may not affect blood glucose, but medications to treat allergies can. There are many remedies for treating seasonal allergies. Allergy medications whether prescribed by your provider or purchased over-the-counter may impact blood sugar levels. Side-effects such as drowsiness, hyperactivity, nausea, diarrhea and dizziness may also impact blood sugar.

  • Decongestants - According to the American Diabetes Association, common allergy medication containing decongestants may raise blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Antihistamines - They tend to not affect blood sugar, however, antihistamines do tend to make you drowsy. Therefore, it is important to understand that long periods of drowsiness can also be associated with hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Drowsiness may make you less able to accurately monitor blood sugar.
  • Steroids - (Corticosteroids) are prescribed by providers but there are types which can be purchased over the counter. A side effect of steroids is they may make blood sugar go up. Monitoring for high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is very important for people with diabetes who take steroids.

Stay prepared for any diabetic health risk by checking your blood sugar frequently and calling your provider if your blood sugar goes up and stays up. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases also has a list of steps to treat hypoglycemia if you have signs of low blood sugar. If you take allergy medication while on insulin, you may need to adjust your dose.

What you can do as allergy season approaches

  • Talk to your health care provider, include an allergy or asthma specialist and ask about treatment options and managing diabetes.
  • Read labels. Just like food labels, medication labels contain important information for our health.
  • Taking your medicine before peak allergy season can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Pay attention to your local allergen report, which commonly includes mold, pollen and the breathing index. Use weather applications on your phone/tablet, or check your local weather station’s web page for a daily or weekly forecasted allergy index.
  • Plan on exercising indoors during peak allergy season.
  • Keep your windows and basement doors closed to avoid allergens.
  • If you need to do yard work during peak allergy season, wear a mask.

‘Food allergy’ medications impact blood glucose

Food allergy is in the group of disorders called food intolerance. In cases where the body demonstrates food allergy symptoms, people will experience an adverse reaction to eating a particular food. Although much rarer than seasonal allergies (1% of the adult population and 4% of children have food allergies) treatments administered to treat non-life threatening allergic reactions (hives, diarrhea, mild hand, lip, or eye swelling) may include seasonal allergy medications (Zyrtec, Singulair and Benadryl for example). These medications like those mentioned above can impact blood glucose level.

Severe food allergies may present anaphylactic shock (airways closing and possibly the heart will stop). Treatment is the use of epinephrine (EpiPen) which, upon being administered, needs to be followed up by immediate and direct emergency room care.

Talk with your health care provider or diabetes educator for tips on managing your diabetes during allergy season. For more information on diabetes and chronic disease, visit Michigan State University Extension

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following resources

Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2017

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis

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