To use alcohol or not?

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Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 218
   Posted 8/1/2009 2:33 AM (GMT -7)   
Hope this isn't a silly question...but here goes.  When I take a sugar reading I first wash my hands with soap and water and rinse them thoroughly, then I swab my finger with an alcohol swab before I stick it.  Is it necessary to use the alcohol swab?  Will the alcohol have any effect on my reading?  Is it better to just use the soap and water?  I'm so confused about this situation.  I'm meds.  Joni

Lanie G
Forum Moderator

Date Joined Nov 2006
Total Posts : 6079
   Posted 8/1/2009 5:23 AM (GMT -7)   
It's not a silly question!  When I first started, I used an alcohol wipe but then I'd read that it wasn't necessary.  If you wash and thoroughly rinse and dry your hands, that should be fine in your own home.  Of course in the lab, they will use alcohol because that's a different environment. I don't know about the alcohol having an effect on the reading.  It evaporates and I don't know if anything is left to affect the reading.  One thing I always do and I'm really not sure it's necessary, I wipe the first bead of blood away with a tissue and test the second bead of blood. I thought I'd read it's better to do that but I can't remember where. 

forum moderator - diabetes
diabetes controlled so far by low/no carb diet and exercise; no meds

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2006
Total Posts : 547
   Posted 8/1/2009 6:55 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi, Joni.... if you're washing & drying your hands, you shouldn't need to alcohol swab. It doesn't have an effect on BGL readings when completely dry but it does toughen the skin. I use the alcohol swabs (or the hand sanitizer stuff) only if I can't wash my hands - rarely. We can also get away with being a little less sterile than the lab blood draws because we're testing blood at the interstitial/ epidermal level (think skin) and they're drawing blood directly from a vein.
- Phishbowl (Type 1 since Jan'05 - Levemir, NovoRapid)
"What's Not Measured Is Not Managed"

"It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows"-Epictetus

New Member

Date Joined Aug 2009
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 8/2/2009 8:11 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi, Joni!

When I was diagnosed 9 years ago, I was told to swab with alcohol before testing. A couple of months ago, however, a diabetes educator mentioned that it was better not to swab if you have access to soap and water because of skin dryness.

So, I rarely swab. Even though I test up to eight times a day, I usually have access to soap and water or, if not, hand sanitizer. I prefer soap and water. The less alcohol, the better. My hands are leathery enough without alcohol, thank you very much.


Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 218
   Posted 8/2/2009 8:39 AM (GMT -7)   
Thank y'all so very much for your replies. I'm so glad I found this forum. I'm learning something new every day. I think I will skip the alcohol swab and just go with the soap and water. I hadn't considered that alcohol will dry the skin out and I don't need that! The swabs also add more expence to my testing supplies and since they aren't necessary I don't want to pay the extra money as I don't have insurance and I pay for my supplies out of pocket.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 35
   Posted 8/18/2009 9:02 AM (GMT -7)   
My meter calls for just soap and water. 

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2009
Total Posts : 21
   Posted 8/25/2009 10:04 PM (GMT -7)   
people sometimes bring them with their kits in case they don't have anything else they can use, in that case, what can you do?lets say you are at the zoo with your kids, or at a movie?
"If you always tell the truth, you won't get caught lying." (pop-pop's proverbs)

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