Testing your blood sugar regularly is an essential part of managing your diabetes. Make sure you prioritize good hygiene practices and keep track of your testing strips and results.

A person using a glucose monitor.Share on Pinterest
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Knowing your blood sugar level quickly can alert you to when your blood sugar is outside the target range. Sometimes, this will help prevent an emergency situation.

You’ll also be able to record and track your blood glucose readings over time. This will show you and your doctor how exercise, food, and medication affect your levels.

Using an at-home blood glucose meter or monitor, you can test your blood glucose levels just about anywhere and anytime. You can have a reading in as little as a minute or two.

Read on to learn more about how to use a blood glucose monitor.

Whether you test several times a day or only once, following a testing routine will help you prevent infection, return accurate results, and better monitor your blood sugar. Here’s a step-by-step routine you can follow:

  1. Wash your hands: Use warm, soapy water and dry your hands well with a clean towel. If you used an alcohol swab, be sure to let the area dry completely before testing.
  2. Prepare lancet: Insert a clean needle into the lancing device. This is a spring-loaded device that holds the needle, which you’ll use to prick the end of your finger.
  3. Get a test strip: Using clean hands, remove a new strip from your bottle or box of strips. Be sure to close the bottle or box completely to avoid contaminating the other strips with dirt or moisture.
  4. Insert the strip: All modern meters require you to insert the strip before pricking your finger. With some older meters, you put the blood on the strip first and then put the strip in the meter, but these are less common.
  5. Stick your finger: Prick the side of your fingertip with the lancet. Some blood sugar machines allow for testing from different sites on your body, so it’s important to read your device’s manual to make sure you’re drawing blood from the correct place.
  6. Collect your sample: Wipe off the first drop of blood and place the next drop on the test strip, ensuring you have an adequate amount for a reading. Be careful to let only the blood, not your skin, touch the strip.
  7. Stop the bleeding: Press a clean cotton ball or gauze pad on the area where you used the lancet. Apply pressure until the bleeding stops.

Follow these steps to safely and accurately record your blood sugar every time.

1. Keep your meter and supplies with you at all times

This includes lancets, alcohol swabs, testing strips, and anything else you use to monitor your blood sugar.

2. Store and monitor your testing strips.

Make sure your strips have not expired — there is no guarantee that out-of-date strips will return true results. Old strips and inaccurate results may affect your daily log of blood glucose numbers, and your doctor may think there’s a problem when there really isn’t.

Also, keep the strips out of sunlight and away from moisture. It’s best to keep them at room temperature or cooler but not freezing.

3. Build blood sugar testing into your day

Work with your doctor to plan your testing routine. They may suggest checking it while you’re fasting, before and after meals, or before bedtime. It’s important to decide on a time that consistently works for you.

When you’ve set your schedule, make checking your blood part of your daily routine. You can try setting a reminder on your meter, phone, or digital calendar. Aim to make testing part of your daily routine — just like brushing your teeth.

4. Don’t assume that your meter is always right

Most meters come with a control solution that allows you to test the accuracy of your meter and strips. Make sure you’re using these regularly.

You can also take your monitor to your next doctor’s appointment and compare its results to the machine at the doctor’s office.

Learn more about choosing a glucose meter.

5. Log your blood sugar daily

While you can use a physical journal, there are also apps that can help you track your readings. You might also want to record the time of day you’re testing and how long it’s been since you last ate.

This information will help your doctor track your blood sugar and can be important when diagnosing what is causing your blood sugar to spike.

6. Take steps to prevent infection

To avoid infection, practice the strategies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source advises for safe injections. Don’t share your blood sugar monitoring equipment with anyone else, dispose of the lancet and strip after each use, and wait until your finger has stopped bleeding before resuming your activities.

Frequent and repeated testing can make your fingertips sore. Here are a few suggestions that may help prevent this:

  • Don’t reuse a lancet: They can become dull, which may make pricking your finger more painful.
  • Prick the side of your finger: Be sure to prick the side of your finger, not the pad. Pricking the end of your finger can be more painful.
  • Don’t squeeze: Though it may be tempting to produce more blood quickly, don’t squeeze your fingertip vigorously. Instead, hang your hand and arm down, allowing blood to pool in your fingertips. In addition:
    • You can help increase blood flow by washing your hands with warm water.
    • If you still have too little blood, you can squeeze your finger, but start at the part closest to your palm and work your way down your finger until you have enough.
    • Don’t test on the same finger each time. Decide which finger you’ll use and when as part of your routine. This way, you’ll never repeat testing on the same finger on the same day.
    • If a finger becomes sore anyway, do not use it for several days. If possible, use a different finger.
    • If you have chronic finger pain due to testing, see your doctor about changing glucose monitors. Some monitors involve drawing blood from other parts of your body.

Being asked by your doctor to monitor your glucose levels is an important part of the diagnostic process. Remember that many things can affect your blood sugar, including:

  • what and when you’ve last eaten
  • what time of day you check your blood sugar
  • your hormone levels
  • infection or illness
  • your medication

Be mindful of the dawn phenomenon, a surge of hormones that happens early in the morning. This can affect your glucose levels.

Speak with your doctor about any concerns or questions you have before starting your blood sugar monitoring routine. If your blood glucose result is wildly different each day despite consistent testing behavior, there could be an issue with your monitor or how you’re taking the test.

Health conditions such as diabetes and hypoglycemia can significantly affect your blood sugar levels. Pregnancy can also affect your blood sugar, which sometimes develops into gestational diabetes for the duration of the pregnancy.

If your glucose levels don’t fall within the target range, you and your doctor can make a plan to determine the reason why. You may need to have additional tests for diabetes, hypoglycemia, certain medical conditions, and other endocrine issues to identify why your blood sugar is too high or too low.

Continue monitoring your blood glucose levels while you wait for test appointments or results. If you experience any of the following symptoms, let your doctor know right away:

  • unexplained dizziness
  • sudden-onset migraine
  • swelling
  • loss of feeling in your feet or hands

Monitoring your blood glucose level yourself is fairly straightforward and easy to do. Though the idea of taking a sample of your own blood each day makes some people squeamish, the modern spring-loaded lancet monitors make the process simple and nearly painless.

Logging your blood glucose levels can be part of a successful diabetes maintenance or dietary routine.