To check your blood sugar levels at home, you will need a blood glucose meter, which you can get in most pharmacies. Blood glucose meters are often available for free, but the test strips that go with the meters must usually be purchased.

The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that you think about some of these issues when you are choosing a meter to use to test your blood sugar levels:

  • vision (e.g., if you have poor vision, you may want to consider using a blood glucose meter that has a large screen display)
  • nighttime testing (make sure the display can light up)
  • where to test (fingers vs. forearm)
  • size of the meter
  • blood sample size required for proper reading
  • whether the meter needs calibration with each new box of test strips
  • your dexterity (strips can be hard to handle - some meters use a cartridge system that contains a number of test strips; some packages of test strips are very narrow, so if you have big fingers, it might be hard to remove just one strip from the container)
  • price
  • speed (how fast the meter gives a result reading)
  • memory (is it important that your meter store your blood glucose readings?)

How to take a blood sample

To obtain a blood sample, you will need to have a lancet device and lancet (these usually come with the glucose meter), the test strip, and your meter. The lancet contains a small needle and is inserted into the lancet device, which is spring-loaded. Place the end of the lancet device against the side of your fingertip and press the button to activate the device. You will see a small drop of blood form where you have punctured your skin. Apply the blood to the test strip according to the instructions and wait for the meter to display your result.

Tips and tricks

    • Always wash your hands in soap and warm water before taking the sample.
    • Rotate the puncture site by alternating among all your fingers.
    • Use a fresh lancet every time you measure your blood, since reused lancets become dull and cause more pain.
    • Do not share your lancet device with anyone.
    • Many pharmacies offer free log books that you can use to track your sugars.
    • If you are having difficulty taking a sample, warm your hands in water and gently squeeze your finger from the base towards the tip, or dangle your hand below your heart to increase blood circulation.
    • If your blood sugar is high, start tracking your food, how much rest you are getting, how much exercise is in your day, and whether you are sick to try to see what the problem might be. You may also need an adjustment in your diabetes medications. See your physician or primary health care provider if the high sugar levels persist.
    • Most meters allow you to download your results and create tables, charts, and graphs that you can take to your diabetes team.