March 8, 2012

Stop Wasting Your Test Strips

This is not related to self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG). This is about the ways we as diabetes patients take care of our test strips and to avoid wasting them in other ways. Each test strip we waste costs us money. They are expensive so we do not need to waste them carelessly.

Yet people do just that. They do not store them properly, jam them into the meter carelessly, and do not wait until the meter says the strip is ready. These errors occur all too frequently and that is wasting money. Errors will happen, but a few precautions can save strips and save your hard-earned money.

First, make sure that you store your strips properly. The containers they come in are the proper container to keep them in. Do not transfer the strips between containers as this can damage some of them. If you are like me and have large fingers, the first few strips are often hard to remove from the container. I keep a small plastic tweezers handy for getting out the first few. No, I did not say metal tweezers, a good way to damage the delicate strips. Check with your pharmacist for a plastic one, they are available, but may need to be ordered.

The original containers are made of special materials that help preserve the test strips and keep them dry. Keep the test strips in the original container and do not transfer them between containers. It is important to use the strip as soon as possible after removing it from the container. Close the container after removing the strip to use. Keep the container out of direct sunlight especially when taking strips out and do not expose the strip to direct sunlight. Please do not put a few test strips in a baggie or in your purse to carry them. The test strips are delicate and can be damaged beyond use.

Keep the container of test strips in a dry place. The bathroom or the kitchen is often the worse place to store your test strips. Please wash your hands with warm soapy water and dry carefully before handling test strips. Never use wet or damp hands or fingers to handle the strip container or for removing a strip from the container.

It is important to perform tests with the meter and strips as close to room temperature as possible to get accurate results. Do not freeze your strips or store them in extreme cold, as this will probably produce errors or false readings. This applies to extreme heat or direct sunlight. I have seen people store them on the car dash in direct sun and then they wonder why they get weird test results.

Now that I have explained proper storage, I will return to proper use of the test strips. When you are ready to test, always have your meter out and ready to insert the test strip carefully. Push it straight into the slot provided. Then use your lancing device to prick your finger and get an adequate amount of blood available. By this time, your meter should be ready to have the test strip receive the required amount of blood. Hold the meter with the test strip inserted properly and slide the strip at an approximate 10-degree angle that will allow the strip to wick sufficient blood to get an accurate reading and move it into the blood. Do not hold the meter and test strip at a 90-degree angle to the blood spot as you may shut off the wicking of your blood before it has enough for a reading. This will get you an error message.

Good luck and may your readings be good and not receiving error messages. The test strips are important and you need to make efficient use to prevent waste.

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