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Checking Blood Sugar at Home: The Do's and Don'ts

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Feb 09, 2021

    Checking Blood Sugar at Home: The Do's and Don'ts

    If you are diabetic, or are taking care of someone with diabetes, you already know the importance of blood sugar levels. Taking medicines or using insulin is not enough. Therefore, properly checking blood sugar at home is essential to manage diabetes.

    This article will go through some of the things you should do and avoid to make sure your blood sugar is kept in check.

    5 Things to Always Do When Checking Blood Sugar

    1. Talk to your doctor

    First and foremost, you should consult with your doctor. He or she will be able to determine your baseline blood sugar levels by requesting for lab tests. The blood glucose readings done in a lab are more accurate than the ones from home testing devices. Using the results, your doctor will set your blood sugar targets and treatment.

    You may consider bringing your glucometer to your doctor to see if it is calibrated and that the results are within the acceptable range.

    In addition, your doctor will be able to recommend what type of glucometer you should get. Having the right device will give you the best results each time. 

    2. Understand your device

    Firstly, to begin checking your blood sugar at home, you need to have the right device. Glucometers or blood glucose monitoring devices (BGMDs) come in a variety of brands and designs. 

    The two main types available for home use are the ones that require finger pricking and continuous glucose monitors. Despite their differences, each serves the same purpose– which is to determine blood sugar level.

    While these devices are freely available at pharmacies and online shops, not all are created equally. Be wary of BGMDs that seem too cheap, as these may be low quality and provide inaccurate readings. After purchasing your device, take time to read the manual.

    Aside from the device itself, ensure that you get the right test strips. Double check the packaging, paying special attention to the expiration date. Expired test strips will not work properly. Some newer devices no longer require separate test strips or even pricking.

    3. Keep a record

    Checking Blood Sugar at Home

    While many of the latest glucometers have built-in memory that can track your readings, you might want to jot it down elsewhere. You can use old-fashioned pen and paper or opt for keeping track of data in a phone app. 

    Either of these options are a good way to schedule each test and provide your doctor with useful information.

    Be sure to include information such as the date, time, and of course the blood glucose reading. Some blood sugar monitoring devices can connect to apps and sync with your phone. You should also take note of what you have eaten throughout the day.

    4. Stick to a schedule

    In the same vein as keeping a record of your readings, try sticking to a regular schedule each day. Timing your activities, meals, and bedtime will make checking your blood sugar at home much easier.

    For example, wake up at 7 AM every day then take your fasting blood sugar. Afterward, you can eat breakfast and then take your post-prandial blood sugar. Continue with your daily activities until it approaches lunchtime. 

    The frequency of testing depends on how uncontrolled your sugar is, the type of insulin that you use, and as instructed by your doctor.

    5. Always wash your hands

    While seemingly unimportant when it comes to blood sugar testing, unclean hands can influence readings. Just unwrapped a piece of candy to give to your child? Without washing your hands, the traces of sugar can mix with your blood sample after pricking. Studies even show that some hand lotions and soap can slightly alter blood sugar readings.

    These can cause your blood sugar reading to be higher than it actually is. The problem with this is that it can make your treatment look like it’s not working. Alternatively, it can also make it seem like you are not taking your medications or watching your diet.

    One or two inaccurate readings may not spell trouble, however, it is best to avoid making this mistake. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands with mild soap and warm water before each test. 

    If you are a caretaker, ensure that you wash your hands and wear gloves while performing the test. Afterward, properly dispose of used lancets and test strips to avoid spreading infectious material.

    Handling High Blood Sugar Levels

    5 Things to Avoid When Checking Your Blood Sugar at Home

    1. Testing too soon after meals

    Because blood sugar readings are expected to spike after meals, it is not ideal to test immediately after eating. For after meal (post-prandial) glucose readings, it is best to test two hours after eating.

    After testing, be sure to write down your blood glucose reading and meal items. Take your medications or insulin as directed. Adjust your dose of insulin as directed/ instructed by your doctor or diabetes care team, depending on your blood glucose reading.

    Checking Blood Sugar at Home

    2. Improper storage

    Secondly, keep your device and accessories in a place you can easily access it. Do not store it in a place where kids can reach. They might mistake the device, lancets, or test strips for toys. 

    If your device is damaged, the readings may not be accurate. Also, test strips that are exposed to air and moisture can falsely elevate your blood sugar measurements.

    In case you are taking care of a child with diabetes, it is best to let them become familiar with the device and procedure. However, do not allow them to handle the device or materials on their own.

    3. High altitudes

    This may not be applicable to all patients, however, studies have shown that altitude can affect BGMDs. The reason behind this is because test strips that contain glucose oxidase are sensitive to the oxygen concentration. 

    At high altitudes, the amount of oxygen is lower. This causes the device to overestimate your blood sugar levels. While this cannot be avoided for the most part, it is something that should be taken into consideration.

    If you need to travel via air, there’s a chance that you will need to check your blood sugar during the flight. Take note of your location in this instance, in addition to the data you usually log. 

    If you are moving from an area with high elevation to one with lower elevation, or vice versa, inform your doctor when he or she sees you for a check-up.

    4. Low temperatures

    Oftentimes, insulin is recommended to be stored in the refrigerator, but should your test strips be? Ideally, no. Similarly to altitude, the room temperature can affect the accuracy of blood glucose readings.

    Hotter temperatures (approaching 40°C) can make the test strips less stable. As a consequence, the blood sugar reading may be higher. If you live in a hot environment without air conditioning at home, the fridge is an alternative. Cooler temperatures have less of an effect than warmer temperatures.

    5. Taking medication

    Lastly, certain medications can alter blood glucose readings. Some examples include paracetamol, dopamine, some diuretics, and even vitamin C. While paracetamol can decrease the readings, the other drugs mentioned can have variable effects.

    Though these medications only slightly affect blood glucose readings, large or frequent doses may have more of an effect. If you are taking any of these medications, take note of it in your journal or app.

    Learn more about Diabetes here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


    Updated Feb 09, 2021

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