Can I Take it? – By Helen May


Recently, my boyfriend had a cold. As he cannot swallow tablets, I bought him some medicine. Thankfully, this worked for him: he could breath again, could sleep again and he was soon back to his usual self.

I’m not sure whether it is my engineering background or I whether I am normally too lazy. But I treat any over-the-counter medication as suitable for anyone. However, during a quiet few minutes, I found myself reading the notes that came in the box of this medicine. I spotted two points referring to diabetes:

“Do not use this medicine if… you have diabetes”
“Each 5ml of this medicine contains 3.5g of sucrose…This should be taken into account in patients with diabetes mellitus”

This looks confusing: I am not allowed to take this medicine but, if I do, I need to consider the 3.5g of sucrose. Can I take it or not?

Out of curiosity, I asked a friendly pharmacist for his advice. He gave two reasons reasons why the decongestant may not be suitable for people with diabetes: if you have diabetes you may have high blood pressure and the medicine should not be taken if you have high blood pressure; the medicine contains sugar which may not be good for some people with diabetes. The first point is covered by the statement “Do not take this medicine if … you have high blood pressure” and I know from personal experience that diabetes does not necessarily mean high blood pressure. And the second point is covered by the statement to take the sucrose into account.

I’m not sure I will ever find out whether I can take this medicine and hope I will never need to. However, I find it frustrating that the instructions contradict themselves. I hope this is an isolated case and not an indication that pharmaceutical companies do not understand diabetes… or any other medical condition.

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Hi Helen,
I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes 7 months ago and very rarely got a cold in years but since i was diagnosed i have had three bouts of really bad colds the worst i,ve had. I went to the chemist for Beechams Powders what i used to get to clear the colds but was told i couldunt have them due to the Diabetes and the only thing i could have was robitussin sugar free, which i took with paracetomol but it didunt shift it, so i ended up going to the Drs and she gave me some Antibiotics which cleared it and said the robitussin was a wast of time and money..
regards, Pete Campbell.

I went out to buy some Day/Night nurse for myself on Friday. At the counter I wasn’t asked if I was on any medication etc. When I got home and red the leaflet the advise stated do not take if you suffer kidney damage (which I do) and take only on a doctor’s advise if you suffer with diabetes. Needless to say, I went to bed and suffered through my cold symptoms for the rest of the weekend!!

Hi Helen,

This sort of thing confuses and annoys me too. First of all if having high blod pressure is a problem taking the medicine then it should say because as you say not all diabetics have High Blood Pressure. I don’t. My thoughts on this are whether you take insulin or not. If you do then you allow for the sugar in the medicine when injecting, like you would for food/carbs. If you are on tablets then best not take it at all and find a sugar free alternative.