How to Safely Use Test Strips and Glucose Meters
From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), advice on the smartest ways to use test strips and glucose meters.
Using a glucose meter to check and monitor blood sugar is a daily part of life for millions of Americans with diabetes.
Glucose meters and test strips are medical devices regulated by the FDA. And the FDA wants to make sure you use these devices safely. Read on for advice.
Beware of Buying Previously Owned Test Strips
The FDA is aware that some sellers are marketing pre-owned or secondhand test strips to consumers. These are unused test strips previously owned by someone else.
These pre-owned strips may be sold at lower prices when compared to new strips. For instance, you may see flyers advertising cheap test strips in your neighborhood, or you may see sellers marketing cheap test strips online.
It is technically legal for people to resell their test strips. But the FDA does not recommend that you buy pre-owned test strips or that you resell your unused strips.
That’s because pre-owned strips can give incorrect results—and may not be safe to use with your device.
- Test strips should be properly stored to give accurate results. If you buy pre-owned strips, it is hard to know whether the strips were stored properly. Test strips also could be expired. A lack of proper storage or using expired strips could put you at risk for getting incorrect results from your glucose meter. And incorrect results can put you at risk for serious health complications—and even death.
- Test strip vials that have been opened by another person may have small amounts of blood on them, which can put you at risk for infection.
- Pre-owned test strip vials may have been tampered with, which means that they may not be safe to use. (For instance, the expiration dates might have been changed or covered up.)
- Pre-owned strips also may not have been cleared by the FDA for sale in the United States. (If instructions aren’t in English or the strips look different than other strips of the same brand, this can be a sign of unsafe strips.)
The bottom line? The FDA recommends that you buy unopened vials of glucose test strips designed for your meter—and that you do not buy pre-owned test strips.
Talk to your health care provider if you are not sure where to buy test strips for your glucose meter or if you cannot afford to buy the test strips recommended for use with your meter.
7 More Safety Considerations for Glucose Meters and Test Strips
You may be a pro at testing your blood sugar levels. But consider these safety reminders.
Follow instructions carefully. Glucose meters and test strips are sold with instructions for use. You can call the manufacturer of your device or your health care provider if you have questions.
Ask your health care provider to watch you test yourself. He or she can tell you if you are using your device correctly.
Do quality control checks of your device. Regularly test your meter using a control solution to make sure the test strips and meter are working properly together. (Read the meter’s instructions for use to see how often you should test it.)
Understand what the meter display means. Be sure you know how high and low glucose values are displayed on your meter. Sometimes they are displayed as “LO” or “HI” when the glucose level is beyond the range than the meter can measure. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions.
Know which test site gives the most accurate results. Readings from other areas of your body may not be as correct as fingertip readings.
- Readings from alternate sites—such as your forearm or palm—can be less accurate than fingertip readings when your glucose levels change quickly (like after you eat or during exercise).
- Take a reading from a fingertip if you think your blood glucose is low, if you don’t normally have symptoms when your blood glucose is low, or if results from an alternate test site don’t match how you feel.
Know when and how to clean and disinfect your glucose meter. Cleaning and disinfection instructions can vary, so always read and follow the directions in your manual.
Know when to report device problems. In an emergency, call 911. For non-emergencies, the FDA encourages you to report any issues to MedWatch, the FDA’s voluntary reporting program. (Problems may include devices that don’t work, suspected incorrect results, or any other problem with your meter or test strips.)
This article appears on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.