Mayo Clinic Health Library

Slide show: Blood sugar testing

Updated: 03-14-2012

Gather your tools

Photo of blood sugar testing supplies

Blood sugar testing is usually done with a needle called a lancet and an electronic glucose monitor. Start by gathering your supplies:

  1. Computer connecting cord (available with some glucose monitors)
  2. Lancet
  3. Glucose monitor carrying case
  4. Glucose monitor
  5. Lancing device
  6. Lancing device cap with dial to set depth of skin puncture
  7. Test strip
  8. Vial containing test strips

Wash your hands

Photo of a person washing hands

Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dry them completely. If you don't have access to soap and warm water, use an alcohol pad to clean the area you plan to stick. Dry the area completely before pricking your skin.

Insert test strip

Photo of a person inserting a test strip into the monitor

Remove a test strip from its container and fully insert the test strip into the monitor.

Some glucose monitors must be coded every time you open a new vial of test strips. Also known as calibrating, coding involves programming your monitor so that it recognizes the new batch of strips. If your monitor needs coding, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Prick your fingertip

Photo of a person pricking a fingertip

Attach the lancing device cap onto the lancing device if it isn't already attached. Use the depth dial on the top of the lancing device to select the penetration depth of your lancing tip. Place the tip covering the lancet on the side of your fingertip to avoid making the frequently used part of your finger sore. Press the button to discharge the lancet.

Depending on your glucose monitor, you may be able to test your blood glucose from other sites, such as your forearm or thigh. But check with your doctor or diabetes educator first to find out if alternative site testing is appropriate in your case.

Touch test strip to blood

Photo of a person touching test strip to blood

Hold your hand down to encourage a drop of blood to emerge. If the blood doesn't come out easily, gently squeeze the end of your finger. Touch the drop of blood with the test strip. The blood will be absorbed by the wicking action of the test strip.

View your results

Photo of test results on monitor

Within a few seconds, the monitor displays your blood glucose level on a screen. If you think something's not right, do a quality control test according to the manufacturer's instructions, and check the owner's manual for other troubleshooting issues.

Discard your lancet

Photo of a person discarding a syringe

Place the used lancet in a safe container — one that prevents people from sticking themselves. Also, safely discard needles and syringes that are used to inject insulin or diabetes medications. Safe disposal boxes are available at health care supply stores and many pharmacies. Alternatively, you could use a heavy-duty plastic container, such as an empty laundry detergent bottle. When the container is full, ask your waste management company about proper disposal. Containers with used lancets and needles are considered hazardous waste.

Record your results

Photo of a monitor connected to a computer

Each time you perform a blood test, log your results. Record the date, time, test results, medication and dosage, and diet and exercise information. Some people use a notebook, record book or journal. Or, depending on your blood glucose monitor, you may be able to download the information to your computer or transfer the information to a mobile device or an online tracking program. The more complete your records are, the more useful they'll be.

You'll need this record when you visit your doctor or other members of your diabetes health care team for checkups.

Store your equipment

Photo of diabetes supplies in their case

You may want to keep your diabetes supplies in a small carrying case for easy access when you're on the go. Take special care to keep your equipment out of hot or cold places, such as the glove compartment in your car in summer or winter. When you travel, place your medication prescription with your glucose testing kit. Carry these items with you, rather than stowing them in your luggage. Diabetes-related medication, equipment and supplies are permitted through airport security checkpoints.

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