I never gave much thought to the issue of how to care for my meter until my three-year-old daughter decided to dunk my Ascensia Elite XL in a glass of water.
My family was sitting down to dinner while I was preparing to test my glucose. My daughter grabbed my meter and dropped it into a glass of water. My wife burst out laughing at the incredulous look on my face. I quickly rescued the meter, dried it off, set it aside for a few hours and then compared the readings with those I got from my spare Ascensia Elite.
Fortunately for me, the meter worked!
This leads me to tip number one for taking care of your meter:
1. Do Not Immerse Your Meter in Water
Some meters require more cleaning than others do. Meters that measure blood glucose by determining the color of the blood sample use optical sensors, which can be affected by dried blood and other contaminants. These meters require more frequent cleaning than meters that use the electric current measurement principle.
2. Keep an Eye on the Battery
Batteries are another concern for meter users. Some meters are capable of about 1,000 tests before the batteries wear out—in other words, about eight months if you test four times per day. I label my meters with a date seven months from the day I install new batteries to let me know when I’m approaching the battery expiration date. This ensures that I will have fresh batteries when I need them, before the meter issues a low-battery warning.
If you use a meter with lithium watch batteries, you will want to keep an extra set on hand since they’re harder to find than the more commonly available AA or AAA batteries.
If your meter has manufacturer-installed batteries that you cannot change, you should contact the toll-free customer service number on your meter.
3. Avoid Meter Shock
Meters are generally very rugged. However, I wouldn’t want to drop one onto a hard concrete surface. To minimize that risk, I don’t remove the meter from the case. Instead, I insert the test strip while the meter is inside the case. That way, if one of my daughters knocks it off the table, it can survive the drop onto the kitchen floor.
If the meter is dropped or damaged, perform quality-control checks with a control solution per the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Avoid Temperature Extremes
Leaving your meter in a car on a hot day can pose a problem for the sensitive electronic components in the meter. Since most people keep their test strips with the meter, the storage temperature for the strips can also be exceeded, thus placing the reliability of the strips in doubt.
Maximum storage temperatures for strips can vary from 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the manufacturer, so it’s best to store test strips in a cool, dry place.
5. Keep Your Meter Clean
How often you clean your meter depends on a number of environmental factors and the type of measurement technique that your meter uses to determine blood glucose levels. Typically, meters using electrochemical measurement technology—such as the Ascensia Elite by Bayer, and the Precision Xtra by MediSense—require less frequent cleaning than meters using reflectance photometry.
Be sure to look in the user’s guide that comes with your meter or in the manufacturer’s test strip insert to determine the blood glucose measurement technique your meter uses. Remember, for infection control and safety reasons, do not share your meter or supplies with anyone else.
6. Keep a Spare Meter
Even if you follow these simple guidelines, your meter can still fail. If possible, keep a spare meter from the same manufacturer on hand for emergencies.