Here are a few reasons to reconsider using an alcohol swab when preparing your finger, or an alternate site for blood glucose testing.
There's no need to sterilize your finger with alcohol before pricking it for a blood sugar reading.
In fact, there are several reasons not to do it.
You don't want an infection on your poor pincushion fingertips, right?
If the concern causes you to swab your digit with alcohol before your blood sugar check, switch to soap and water instead.
Here are three reasons why it might be better:
1. The test strip that measures your glucose levels are made with a substance that reacts to sugar by turning color.
2. Alcohol can destroy this substance and cause a false low blood glucose reading.
3. Alcohol dries out your skin and can lead to broken skin near your nails. If all the alcohol doesn't evaporate before you stick your finger, you may feel stinging as well as the discomfort of the poke.
Washing and drying your hands is all you need to prevent infection. Just be sure that your hands are dry and that you've gotten all the soap off before you do your reading.
If your glucose monitor instructions include alcohol swabs, make sure your finger is totally dry before sticking it.
If the alcohol is still wet, your blood sugar reading could be inaccurate.
If using soap, make sure the soap doesn't have honey or any sweet additives in it.
Researchers at Jutendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo tested a small group of healthy volunteers’ blood-sugar levels before having them peel oranges, grapes, and kiwis.
Between fruit-peeling sessions, each volunteer would follow up with one of three hand-washing scenarios.
1. Not washing his hands before having his blood-sugar retested
2. Washing his hands with tap water before retesting
3. Swabbing his fingertip with an alcohol swab before retesting
When volunteers washed their hands with tap water, their blood-glucose measurements were similar to those of control subjects who had not handled any fruit. Perhaps not too surprisingly however, when the fruit peelers didn’t wash their hands at all, their blood sugar levels were abnormally and significantly higher.
But here’s where things get interesting…and unfortunately it’s not in a good way.
When the recommended alcohol-swabbing technique was used their blood sugars were equally abnormally high! To make matters worse it didn’t appear to matter if they cleaned their fingertips once or five times with alcohol swabs…the numbers were still way off.
Of course, if you take things just one step further, the most frightening implication of these findings is that artificially-elevated readings could easily cause someone to overestimate his medication needs and take too much of his diabetic medication or insulin.
The bottom line is that despite what your meter’s directions might say you should be washing your hands with tap water in addition to the swab every time you use it.
They say that cleanliness is next to godliness, but in this case clean fingers just might save your life.
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