Thursday, January 26, 2006

For the Cough of It

I tend to cough a lot. Mostly those annoying coughs that never quite clear away everything you wish it would, leaving you to cough again in a few seconds or a few minutes. It is annoying. Far more annoying, in my opinion, than having to deal with finger pokes or calculating insulin boluses.

Coughing, for me, can mean one of several things, the last of which tends to be that I'm actually coming down with something. More often than not it means allergies.

Back when I first started pumping, I was following the advice of placing a patch of Tegaderm or other such medical tape, and then inserting the infusion set through it. That worked for a few months, but I noticed I was coughing more and more. Eventually, the sites with tape were developing a rash and becoming itchy, and finally would start weeping within a day or two. I then went through a round of trying no fewer than twelve different tape products. Some were better than others, but all still resulted in a reaction. One day, my coughing was so bad that I literally pulled a muscle (or something) in my chest. I was in pain for weeks, and it never really completely healed.

Then I decided to forego the tape entirely. Just use the infusion set as is. Well, due to my dry skin, the tape didn't always stick as well, but my reactions ceased entirely. So, that's what I do today. Just say no to tape. Two things came out of that. First, I have an allergy to latex. Second, I have an allergy to most forms of adhesives, because many of the tapes I tries were not latex. (But the latex ones had the most severe reaction.)

But my coughing continued. Next up, seasonal allergies. Some people sneeze, other people get watery, itchy eyes, but I cough. The cough from allergies is livable, though, which is good, since I prefer not to take allergy medicine unless I have to. (A result of a lesson learned back in the days of Seldane before they found out it was killing people, which I won't go into here.)

There are times, however, when my coughing is pretty harsh. And this is the one that is important, because it is a sign of high blood sugar. Or, more accurately, rising blood sugar.

Frankly, I don't understand the physical aspects of it, and it isn't something that I've seen listed on any symptom sheet, but I can fairly accurately predict my BGL based on my cough. In fact, it is so accurate, that if I find myself suddenly coughing more, and I don't want to stop to test my BGL, I can make a correction bolus without risk of triggering low.

And I say that it is really more about rising bloog sugar than high because there is a point when the coughing stops. The coughing starts somewhere near the 160 mark, and grows more intense up to around 200. Then the cough starts to taper off until I'm up to about 240 or so. Also, the cough is influenced by how hydrated I am.

I spent the first fifteen years of my diabetic life never realizing that coughing meant anything. As far as I can recall, perhaps coughing never was a symptom prior to then. But once I put the connection together, it is yet another nice way to keep tabs on my BGL. It is another example of keeping tabs on your body's individual symptoms, and using them to the benefit of keeping control. So pay attention the next time you start coughing. Check your BGL, see if there is any correlation. Pay attention to the different types of cough, because just like there are many types of snow, there are many types of cough.

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