Every. Single. Blood sugar check.
We're supposed to clean our fingers before each one, but let's be honest -- that's not the norm for most of us PWDs (people with diabetes).
And you might be surprised to learn that some experts say using an alcohol wipe to disinfect fingers before testing can actually skew our readings. So we patients ought to be looking very closely at effective ways to clean our hands that won't throw off glucometer results.
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This line of thinking inspired two D-Moms outside the U.S. to create new non-alcohol-based wipes that are antiseptic, so won't impact blood sugar accuracy, and are small enough to fit in a meter case.
One family business is relatively new and has just launched its first line of wipes, and the other is nearly a decade old now but got started with wipes before expanding into multiple other types of diabetes supplies. Their wipes products differ slightly, but both are created by moms with young CWDs (children with diabetes) who saw a need and set out to fulfill it.
Today we welcome both businesses to our Small But Mighty series, looking at mom-and-pop shops by and for people affected by diabetes. Our intern, Amanda Cedrone, had a chat with both businesses to learn more about what they're offering the Diabetes Community:
Just a few weeks ago on Aug. 19, England-based Funky Pumpers launched its first line of swabs called Dia-Wipes. The company's been around for about two years, selling other products that include pump and meter cases, hypo treatments and medical ID jewelry. But the wipes came out of practicality because a D-Mom would could never find a good way to clean a finger when needed.
Sabrina Dawe, 33, in southwestern England, started the company in 2011 after her 13-month old son, Dylan, was diagnosed with type 1. He went on the pump quickly, and Sabrina was frustrated that she had to order pump cases from the United States because there weren't many available in Europe. Sabrina had given up her job as a lawyer to care for Dylan, so she began designing cases -- at first, only for Dylan. Then for other friends with type 1 kids. But through word-of-mouth, her little business grew and blossomed into Funky Pumpers.
And then the idea came this year to create a product line of hand wipes for blood tests.
"It was something that we needed ourselves having a little boy with type 1. He's out and about. He doesn't want to find a bathroom to wash his hands," Sabrina says.
Dia-Wipes are made of a solution of water and 0.9 percent sodium chloride (aka table salt and chlorine), which will disinfect the finger without affecting meter readings. Each wipe measures roughly 2 by 3 inches, and they come in packs of 25 that easily fit into most meter cases. The wipes are sold individually, or in packs of 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100. A single wipe sells for $2.37 (in U.S. dollars) and an entire 100-pack goes for $158. They can also be bought wholesale for resale by retail stores, and can be shipped anywhere in the world.
Sabrina says the reception so far, in just the first few weeks, has been good; Dia-Wipes are being well-received by other CWD parents and area schools where they're most useful. While Dia-Wipes and the rest of the Funky Pumpers products are mostly meant for children, they do have a line of adult products including items like an insulin pump garter, pump bands and bra pouches.
Really, you name it and they've pretty much got it at Funky Pumpers. Pump cases are decorated with everything from Star Wars characters to One Direction band members to Hello Kitty. They're attached to bands that fit waists between 14 and 40 inches. The company also has a line of "night time pouches." These pump cases are made of flannel or fleece and are meant to be a bit "cozier" than say a hard plastic or leather pump case.
Their "hypo treatments" were especially interesting to me -- jelly beans and sugar sticks with a healthier twist (nothing artificial and the sugar sticks contain vitamin C!) Nowadays, we have many more glucose tab options. I particularly enjoy Glucolift -- but when I was a kid, I HATED the white, square, orange flavored glucose tabs. You know, these? In fact, I begged my mom in the grocery store not to buy them. Needless to say, I would have much preferred jelly beans or sugar sticks -- which I'm sure my mom would not have bought me unless they were specifically designed for diabetics, so thank you, Funky Pumpers.
We've featured a number of these small, family-run diabetes supply companies here at the 'Mine before, but Sabrina claims what sets Funky Pumpers apart is that they were the first such company in the UK -- specifically, the first-ever to sell pump cases in that part of the world.
"There's been lots of people that started up in the UK since us. We just concentrate on what we're doing," Sabrina said. "Its really, really busy. We do 100 orders in a day normally. We send all the orders out ourselves. Even though it's growing, we still try to give personal service. We understand the product. We know what's important."
The second company doing unique wipes is based in Queensland, Australia, called Diabete-ezy. This family business started out selling alcohol-free swabs nearly a decade ago in 2004, but just a few years ago expanded into selling all kinds of other diabetes products.
Founder Elissa Renouf, 43, has five diabetics in the house -- her husband Steve was diagnosed as an adult in 1992, while four of their five children have type 1 (!) The kids were diagnosed one after the other over a seven-year span at the ages of 3, 8, 2 and 16. Elissa began the business before the last of her kids was diagnosed, and she now laughs about the exhausting thought of having to force (then) just three boys to come inside, wash their hands and check their blood sugar multiple times a day.
"I needed these mini wipes to clean their fingers," she says. "I thought, 'Well God, this is what I need. If I need this, I'm sure there are a lot of other people who need the same thing.'"
Diabete-ezy testing wipes are made up of 2 percent chlorhexidine gluconate (often used in mouthwash) and come in a dispenser box measuring 2 inches by 1 inch by 1 inch. A starter pack that comes with a dispenser box and 100 wipes costs $6.95, while a 200-count refill pack is $10.95.
Elissa and her husband registered Diabete-ezy in 2004, but due to the time it took to find a factory and have the wipes produced, the first products weren't available until 2006. While they were biding their time, they designed other products they found necessary for a life with five diabetics.
The Ezy-fit case is one example. It fits a logbook, pen, space for a business-card-sized management plan, two pen needles, a test wipe dispenser, meter, lancet device, strips, needle tip refills, lancets and a compartment for trash. It also comes in cool colors.
Unfortunately, Diabete-ezy products are currently only available in Australia and the UK. But Elissa is working to jump through the necessary hoops to sell her products in other countries, including the U.S. She expects Diabete-ezy products to be available all over the world in about two years.
"It's a matter of finding distributors, getting licenses for other countries... I'm doing what I can do while managing a family with five diabetics," she said.
Swabbing Expert Opinions
Obviously, you should clean your hands before testing for a plethora of reasons, and we've heard them all before. But I was curious what the experts thought of these specialty wipes, if they're really necessary and worth forking over the extra funds. Plus I wondered why some nurses and medical professionals (like my own nurse at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston) perhaps shouldn't be using alcohol swabs to clean off my fingers.
Two Joslin experts -- pediatric and adolescent nurse educator Cindy Pasquarello and pediatric nurse practitioner Ashley Atkins -- explained that the real danger in using alcohol wipes comes from the finger still being wet with alcohol when the blood's placed on the test strip.
"You can get a lower blood glucose result if the blood has been diluted by alcohol," Pasquarello said.
Great, just what we need when glucose meters and test strips are already questionable when it comes to accuracy... Oy!
Based on what the two Joslin pros say, it's technically OK to use alcohol wipes. Just make sure you wait for your finger to dry completely before testing. Of course, both women were intrigued by the alcohol-free finger wipes and said they do see multiple reasons for purchasing and using these instead of their alcohol-based counterparts. Their reasons: alcohol can sting the open wound when testing blood sugar, and so the pain can be a deterrent, and also that alcohol's hard on skin and that just adds to the battle scars we PWDs and CWDs can collect.
If there are more alternatives out there, I've yet to find them. No Dia-Wipe or Diabete-ezy wipe equivalent appears to be on sale here in the States, although we do have more than enough options for traditional alcohol wipes, Wet Ones, baby wipes, and so on. But none of those are quite the same: they contain chemicals that can mess with BG results, and aren't packaged small enough to fit into the bite-sized meter cases most of us prefer. So there's probably a strong market for them there, so we'll just have to wait for these two vendors to find their way across the pond -- or perhaps some dedicated D-Rents will start their own finger wipe biz here in the States.
You never know... the business may start off small, but turn mighty before you know it!
OK, Diabetes Community, tell us your thoughts on this topic: how often do you clean your hands and fingers before checking blood sugars, and what's your routine for using wipes, if any?