Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Blood glucose test strips are a wonderful thing, until they’re not. Maybe you love your strips. Maybe you long for more strips. Maybe you see them, use them, and feel a sense of calm, knowing that good or bad, your strips provide you with necessary information to help you manage your illness.

Right now, though, I don’t like my strips.

Oh, I admit they’re fantastic, a groundbreaking medical invention for those of us with diabetes. Strips provide us snapshots of our blood glucose readings at any particular moment. Too high? Too low? You don’t really know for sure unless you check. And if you use a test strip prior to eating or drinking anything with carbohydrates, it’s so much easier to make an informed decision about your insulin bolus.

Test-strip technology is another positive: it just keeps getting better all the time. Used to be it took a huge drop of blood to set the strips off on their calculating way, and then you’d have to wait forever, like, more than five seconds, for your blood glucose reading to appear. These days a less-than-pinhead-sized drop (if you could even call it a drop) and the strip is happy, which makes the meter happy, which makes me happy.

Usually.

I’ve come to realize that my test strips annoy me. There’s nothing terribly rational about these feelings toward my strips — and I’m sure I’ll come around and enjoy their company again soon — it’s just that, well, they’ve taken on a life of their own.

I’m well aware that a good diabetes self-management routine relies on these little, plastic, electronic strips. I know I’m fortunate, because when it comes to the cost of test strips (which can be around a dollar per strip), my supplies are fully covered by my medical insurance. The thing is, test strips — my used test strips — are everywhere, and despite the innumerable daily reminders, apart from blood glucose test strips, that I live with an incurable chronic illness, it’s the test strips — those innocuous, tapered tabs with a spot of blood on them — that have become an unwelcome reminder that I have an illness, a reminder when I don’t want to be pulled back from whatever it is I’m doing to make me say, “Oh, yes. That’s from you. It’s because you have diabetes.”

If you have diabetes, and if you monitor more than a couple of times a day (and unless you’re meticulous in your disposal of your strips), then do I really need to go into what I mean by used test strips being everywhere? Do I need to list where I find them, describe how annoying they can be when I turn on the light in the laundry room and there are two or three on the floor, rectangular insects who’ve come into the open to die in the night? Should I describe how frustrating it is to try and pick one up off of the floor, in my office, a strip that didn’t make it to the trash can. I can’t get a purchase on it. My fingers fumble. It just sits there, fast to its home, me without fingernails enough to get a hold.

There’s the vacuum attachment they get stuck in. There’s the sheets on the bed they get caught between (and in the morning, the parts of exposed skin they stick to). There’s the garden where I find them, the driveway cracks where they lurk, the front porch crevices they creep into, the spot at the curb where we set out our trash bins.

My work bag? My office desk? My car’s footwells, cup holders, and seat cracks? Yes, yes, yes.

And many more places than these, yes.

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Comments
  1. I find strips in odd places too, but mostly in my meter case, where they accumulate until it dawns on me that my case is not a garbage can.

    But I look at them differently than you do. For me it’s Oh, look, I actually remembered to test! or Gee! I managed to test in public in front of friends and not get embarrassed about it! They are little reminders of a job well done.

    Posted by Natalie Sera |
  2. Funny or not that is disgusting. I hope you don’t have a wife or children who find, pick up or lick your wayward strips. You need to think health not messy. Test and put them in the trash or container or whatever but don’t leave them lying around. Ugh. I dropped one once and my dog licked it. All mine get taken care of after I test. If the gross flinging of test strips does not bother anyone you live with think of the blood laying around for guests to find. double ugh.

    Posted by Xanthra |
  3. I just make a point of putting them in my sharps disposal container with the used lancet. I’m fairly new to this (diagnosed in July 2010), so I’m not familiar with all the different kinds of strips. Aren’t most of them similar? Don’t all tests require a fresh lancet for every test? If you throw the strip in with the lancet every time, there ought to be no (or very few) loose strips lying around. Just by virtue of the fact that there is blood residue on the strips I would think one would want to dispose of them ASAP. They can’t add significantly to the volume inside the sharps disposal unit, I believe. I’m not a terribly fastidious person, and I don’t live in a museum atmosphere, but just the gross-out factor is enough to keep me on top of this one aspect of housekeeping.

    Posted by Bruce |
  4. Bruce:

    I check my blood glucose in many places, six to ten times a day. In most of these places, a sharps container is not available (car, work, gym, restaurants, friends’ houses… the list goes on and on). Strips don’t require a fresh lancet; you hear when you are first diagnosed to use a fresh lancet every time, and I know that the proper method would be to use a fresh one every time, but you may be the first person I’ve encountered who admits to using a fresh lancet each time. I worked with a guy who used the same lancet for dozens, if not more, strips. So throwing the strip with the lancet every time is not possible, at least not for me. Disposing of them ASAP, as well, is a pipe dream; if, say, I’m sitting on a bike in spinning class or dining at a restaurant, or in the car, or any number of places, there’s no way I’m going to get it into a trash can; just isn’t the easiest thing to do. So a used strip will go into my pocket. And I’m human: often I forget I have a strip in my pocket.

    By the way, with my test strips, the blood is sucked into the test strip, which means that very little, if any blood is exposed… but I’m not going to get into the biohazard possibilities of a test strip, of a strip being licked, etc., etc. Yes, it can be considered gross. I don’t consider it gross, and when they’re almost always on the floor of any of these places I speak. My dog doesn’t lick them, and if she did, well, so what: I’m not harboring communicable illness (and besides, she licks her butt, so I doubt she’d be disgusted by a wee bit of dried blood).

    I haven’t re-read my blog entry, but I hope I didn’t make it sound as if I am willy-nilly throwing test strips about to let them fall where they may. I monitor over 50 times a week. At least. There are bound to be errant strips.

    If I’m in the minority here and everyone else with diabetes who monitors frequently, those who do not monitor only in one physical location (as, say, in, the bathroom) never lose a strip or let one escape proper disposal, then call me the worst diabetic-strip-tester out there, and I’ll accept the punishment.

    :-) Eric

    Posted by Eric L |
  5. I carry an empty strip vial with my kit and put the used strips in there.

    I just wish the cases that came with the meters had a tiny bit more room in them so you can put a container in it for used lancets and strips.

    Posted by Journey |

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Why Do Test Strips Cost So Much? (Part 2) (09/25/13)
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