Treatments to relieve allergy symptoms may impact blood glucose

Get relief and stay safe during allergy season.

Woman sneezing

Spring ushers in seasonal allergies. First, trees release pollen soon followed by summer grasses, rye and weeds generating hay fever. Allergens can be more intrusive for individuals with diabetes.

If you have diabetes, you know that being under the weather from seasonal allergies may affect how you manage your diabetes. Diabetes can 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 are not feeling well?

Diabetes self-management with allergies

Allergy season can be especially hard for people with diabetes. Allergies themselves may not affect blood glucose, but medications to treat allergies can. Almost all medications whether over the counter or prescribed may impact blood sugar. Medication side effects such as drowsiness, hyperactivity, nausea, diarrhea and dizziness impact blood sugar.

Common allergy medications

According to dLife, medications, whether over the counter or prescription, can affect blood sugar levels. Check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider before taking allergy medications. Here is a short list of allergy medications and possible side effects:

  • Decongestants—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)—prescribed by providers but there are types that 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.

Follow these helpful tips if you take allergy medications

  • Before starting any new treatment, always talk to your provider or asthma specialist about treatment options while managing your diabetes.
  • Stay prepared for any diabetic health risk by monitoring your blood sugar frequently. If you are having unusually high or low blood sugar readings, contact your healthcare provider.
  • If you take allergy medication while on insulin, you may need to adjust your dose.
  • Ask you provider or asthma specialist about treatment options and managing diabetes.
  • Read 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 help avoid allergens from entering your home.
  • 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. Although much rarer than seasonal allergies, treatments administered to treat non-life-threatening allergic reactions such as hives, diarrhea, mild hand, lip or eye swelling may include seasonal allergy medications such as Zyrtec, Singular and Benadryl, for example. These medications like those mentioned above can have the same impact on blood glucose levels.

For more information on diabetes and chronic disease, Michigan State University Extension recommends the following resources:

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