Using Expired Test Strips: OK or Not?

Test strips, those tiny slips that our glucose meters use to transport a drop of blood to their reader, can be expensive.

There are many brands of glucose meters, and generally each meter requires its own brand of test strips. Often, the meters are free, or at the very least, inexpensive. Of course, they require their own unique brand of strips, and that is where the money is made.

The expense of testing strips, and the lack of insurance coverage for them, leads to thoughts of how to save money on them. For a well-controlled type 2 diabetic this might not be such a big deal, as testing might only be necessary once or twice a day. For type 1 diabetics, or those type 2s who struggle to maintain control, testing is likely needed many times a day.

There have been several unofficial and anecdotal “experiments” done to see if it is possible to use expired strips and get accurate readings. A review of many of these web-published efforts has shown that the accuracy of the readings that come from using expired strips is, at best, a hit-or-miss result.

Reusing strips has an even more dismal result, with few strips giving any reading at all on a second use, and virtually none giving an accurate reading.

Tips for Keeping the Cost Down

Rather than accepting a free or low-cost glucose meter and then being stuck with expensive test strips, shop the test strips first. There are low-cost or generic strips out there, and each brand will tell you which meters they are compatible with. A one-time meter purchase, no matter how expensive, can save you a great amount of money if the strips are less expensive.

Know how many strips you need in a day, a week or a month. Buy accordingly. If you are testing your blood only twice each day, then you will need no more than 62 strips each month. If you are testing up to 10 times each day, then you might need as many as 300 strips per month.

Strips come packaged in a number of different quantities. There may be 25 or 50 or 100 in a box. Don’t buy more than you will use by the expiration date. This might require more frequent purchases, but you are more likely to have used them up than to have some that expire before use.

Keep the strips in a dry, clean place where they won’t be affected by dust, grease or dirt. Keep them at room temperature. Make sure your hands are clean when handling them so the remaining strips in the box are not contaminated.

Make sure you are using the correct strips for the reader you have. The reader and the strips are designed to be used together, and mixing brands may produce inaccurate results.

Most importantly, don’t short yourself on testing. It is important that you do as much testing as you need to in order to control your blood sugar levels. Don’t skimp.

Sources: GlucoMart and Diabetes Mine

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