One of the first things you must learn when diagnosed with diabetes is how to test your blood sugar. Your health care provider typically works with you to develop a testing schedule and recommends high and low blood sugar limits, both fasting and two hours after meals. Depending on your medication (insulin or oral medication), you may need to test several times a day.

Blood sugar testing basics

There are literally dozens of choices in blood glucose meters. Your health care provider may recommend a specific brand. He or she may even provide you with a meter, depending on your insurance. Your health care provider may also demonstrate the use of the lancing device, meter and its test strips.

Here are five things to remember when testing your blood sugar:

  • Keep it clean. Always wash your hands thoroughly before testing, and use an alcohol wipe before using the lancing device.

  • Use the right lancing device. Most lancing devices are spring-loaded to minimize flinching. Some are adjustable for degree of penetration. Most blood glucose meters come with a device, but if you don’t like the one you have, shop around.

  • Use the proper test strips. The blood glucose meter manufacturer calibrates the test strips to the meter. Third party test strips may be cheaper, but these strips may not work with all meters and could produce inaccurate results.

  • Keep a record of your results. Keeping track of your blood sugar levels is critical to adjusting your medication and diet to keep your blood sugar within proper limits. If your results vary widely, check with your heath care provider and compare their meter to yours. If your meter checks out, then your medication or diet may be out of whack.

  • Maintain your meter. Keep it in a dry location at room temperature. Extreme heat, cold, or humidity can affect the accuracy of the readings. Check your meter’s accuracy with the control solution (provided with test strips) as directed, and change the batteries at recommended intervals.

Although most glucose meters test blood drawn from a finger prick, some meters allow testing from alternate sites such as the arm, palm or forearm. If your fingers are particularly sensitive, you may want to consider alternate site testing. Check with your health care provider before switching to alternate site testing. You should also have your health care provider check your A1c level at least annually. This measures the long-term average blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you maintain your A1c at 6.5 or lower.