Selecting a Home Blood Glucose Meter

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All home meters now on the market are accurate enough to measure your child's glucose correctly. They're generally plus or minus 10 percent of the reading done in a laboratory. For example, a lab reading of 100 mg/dl may be anywhere from 90 to 110 mg/dl on your child's meter. This is sufficiently accurate to help you decide on treatment and evaluate the results of treatment.

Meters that measure the blood glucose use one of two methods, both of which are highly accurate (Figure 7-2 shows a typical meter):

i The first method depends on the production of a color when the glucose reacts with a chemical in the strip. The meter reads the darkness of the color to produce a blood glucose reading.

i The second method uses a strip that produces electrons when the glucose reacts with the chemical in the strip. The meter measures the amount of electrons produced to give a glucose reading.

In the following sections, I give you some factors to consider as you select a home glucose meter, and I explain how a data management system works. I also provide details on a wide variety of meters.

Get a new meter for your child every two years at the very least. They're like cars in that a new model with new features is available practically every year. With each new meter, the batteries last longer, and the testing procedure becomes simpler. With recent meter developments, manufacturers have been trying to do away with coding the meter each time you use new test strips.

Considering a few factors when choosing a meter

Here are some practical tips to consider when purchasing a glucose meter for your child:

i The meter companies are happy to give away most of their meters. What they want you to buy are the test strips, which are different for each meter. Even within one manufacturer the test strips may differ for the different meters the company makes.

The strips tend to cost about the same for each meter. If you find strips that cost significantly less per test, you may want to go with them. A meter should cost no more than $25 to $50, and test strips are about $1 per test.

i Make sure that you can download your child's meter information to a data management program. (Some doctors have a preference for a particular meter that can be downloaded to a computer because the glucose results can be viewed in a way that's especially useful for that doctor.) Trying to determine trends in the blood glucose is next to impossible simply by looking at results in a logbook. The computer can do so much with the results that your brain can't, like putting results from different days into the same time slots or putting entire days into separate slots so you can see if your child's T1DM is managed the same on different days. For example, many patients do better Monday through Friday and loosen up on the weekend. This trend is obvious with a data management program. (See the next section for more about these programs.)

Don't buy a meter that doesn't have a memory for at least 100 test results. If you test your child four times a day, a 100-result memory allows you up to 25 days of results, enough to give you and your doctor a good overall picture of the trend of the glucose.

i If your insurance company will only pay for one particular kind of meter or strips, you may have to go with that meter. But if you and your doctor are willing to go through the hassle of contacting the insurance company and requesting authorization, you still may be able to use the meter of your choice.

i If you want your child to learn to test himself, make sure that he can use the meter easily.

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