Finger Lickin’ Good

Let’s see a show of hands here: How many of you lick your finger to get the blood off after glucose testing? 

Well, of course you do. Otherwise the digit keeps bleeding and you end up with spots all over your shirt/steering wheel/wallet, right?  It’s perfectly natural.  Even non-diabetics do it after they get a little nick, don’t they?

But I’ve found that this practice seems to be a much bigger deal than the glucose testing itself.  Even some endos I’ve met are totally grossed out by it. And outsiders say things like, “You like the taste ofVampire blood?”  “Why yes, diabetic is just a euphemism for vampire, of course!”

I also met an elderly PWD at a conference lately who compulsively washes her hands before each glucose test.  She swears up and down that the oils and sweat on the fingers make your meter go coo-coo.  Ugh, I thought, in that case I probably haven’t had a single accurate fingerstick test yet.

Of course, the experts recommend that you should “check the package insert for each meter to find out what substances might affect its testing accuracy.”  You mean all those little pamphlets and folded papers we usually stuff in a cabinet somewhere? Oh yeah, I’ll do that (someday).

Meanwhile, in real life, most of us are still lickin’ our fingers and getting on with it.  Even those of us using CGM, I might add, which still requires plenty of fingerstick tests/day.

And speaking of finger lickin’ good, what about those GLUCOSE TABS?  Let’s take a moment to mentally savor that gaggingly sweet sensation.  I would like to think of a low as my chance to consume CANDY.  But if it were, it’d be Chocolate Hour of course. Never those pure-sugar tarts. Yech. 

Remember, there are lots of places to look up the carbohydrate counts of common candies.  My Halloween festivities actually start tomorrow, with the annual birthday bash for my now-turning-four year old.  Surrounded by unlimited nibbles, rich foods, cake and candy (flowing from a Dora The Explorer Pinata even), this is my pre-test for the upcoming Holiday Season. Aaargh! Hope yours is finger lickin’ good. 


30 Responses

  1. Marston
    Marston October 27, 2006 at 7:31 am | | Reply

    Hah funny thing, for the last 16 years or so I’ve always looked for or used a tissue to wipe the blood off. Only recently (last few months) did I discover the easy joys of finger licking!

    I think it might be just me and having the early exposure and all, but I might be the only person who likes the smell of rubbing alcohol swabs!

  2. TorMo
    TorMo October 27, 2006 at 7:37 am | | Reply

    No strong feelings on this, but I almost never lick my finger – it seems a bit unhygienic. I keep a small fold of toilet paper in my meter case and just tamp my finger on that (it can get pretty gross because I don’t change it often enough). If it’s a real gusher, I grab a kleenex instead.

  3. ralph berry
    ralph berry October 27, 2006 at 7:51 am | | Reply

    Just deleated my comments by mistake. Guess the system does not like me today. My Dad was an old timey doc and he said to lick the blood because it starts an immune reaction if you have anything not so clean in the wound. I have been licking wounds since the test method began and have never had an infection. Lick on and enjoy. Not sure this would pass muster with the scientific community but it has worked for me for many years.

  4. Lyrehca
    Lyrehca October 27, 2006 at 8:24 am | | Reply

    Longtime finger licker here. And for treating reactions, Junior Mints or Peppermint Patties can give you a bit of chocolate in a candy that is otherwise low enough in fat so that the carb counts are an accurate reflection of raising blood sugars. A whole box of Junior Mints is about 45 carb, if I remember correctly, which is generally too much for a simple correction, but those mini Peppermint Patties are something like 10 carbs each, so one or two might do the trick well.

    Personally, I stick with Lifesavers most of the time. Cheaper and far more pleasant than Glucosetabs.

  5. Scott K. Johnson
    Scott K. Johnson October 27, 2006 at 9:06 am | | Reply

    I’m a finger licker here too. I used to have the tissue in the test kit thing, but it was embarrassingly nasty after a while. Licking, while maybe nasty if witnessed, does not leave behind any evidence. And I don’t really fancy the taste, I just want my drop of blood gone!

    I carry a tube of glucose tablets in my pocket, and it never fails to amuse me – when I pop off the top of the tube, and a cloud of glucose powder wafts up from it!

    I wonder if I just inhaled that if it would treat the low? hehe!

    I do make sure to be careful to either wash my hands, or lick and rub (on my clothes) if I think there is anything (like glucose powder) on my finger prior to testing.

  6. Sandra Miller
    Sandra Miller October 27, 2006 at 9:10 am | | Reply

    While Joseph does wash his hands before testing, he always licks his finger after– I’m thinkin’ that as long as he licks it *after* putting blood on the test strip, there’s no worries about his saliva impacting the test result.

  7. johnboy-d
    johnboy-d October 27, 2006 at 10:51 am | | Reply

    Ok, ok….i admit it. I’m a finger licker!

  8. Scott
    Scott October 27, 2006 at 12:08 pm | | Reply

    Cute post … I believe that the practice of finger-licking after a test is probably no more common than reusing lancets (almost everyone does that)! Is it a “good” practice? Maybe not, but its not going to kill anyone, either.

    As for your comment on glucose tabs, I think that they do have a disgustingly sweet, chalky consistency, but I’m not a big chocolate fan myself, so I’ll probably stick with them. But I would mention that there are some fairly new flavors for tablets that are a HUGE improvement over the more common but icky orange, grape and raspberry flavors. The biggest change is the fact that they are sold with several flavors in the same container of tablets (usually 3 flavors). This was the result of some healthy competition in the market, which had long been dominated by Can-Am Care Corp. Lets face it, making dextrose tablets is not complex drug engineering. Anyway, about 2 years ago, a little company called Raritan Pharmaceuticals Inc. entered the market and started selling what they called “Tropical Fruit” flavored tablets with Wal Mart (and a few other chains like NYC’s Duane Reade Drug Stores). Since then, Can-Am has come back with its own variety sold under the name “Assorted Fruit” flavors sold in CVS Drugstores. Both “Tropical Fruit” and “Assorted Fruit” are much more palatable than the old flavors.

    As noted, we can thank some new competition in the market for that!!

  9. Judy
    Judy October 27, 2006 at 12:19 pm | | Reply

    Oh my goodness—NOT a finger licker here!! I have to agree—Gross! I always have a kleenex handy for the job and to dispose the used strip in as well.
    Nothing to add re the glucose tabs. I usually keep a piece of hard candy or roll of lifesavers in my purse.

  10. Kelsey
    Kelsey October 27, 2006 at 1:15 pm | | Reply

    I’m a finger licker! It’s so convenient and honestly, one less thing to have to worry about in the diabetes realm of my life. I’m so used to it, I barely taste the blood anymore!

    Lows don’t bother me too much (I feel them quickly and don’t have very severe symptoms) thus I tend to use OJ at night and whatever I have with me during the day (typically Quaker chewy granola bars) but when I do have the occasional glucose tab, they don’t bother me too much. I like Scott’s suggestion regarding the new brands, I’ll have to check those out.

    Clever post Amy, and so timely with the vampire reference :)

  11. Minnesota Nice
    Minnesota Nice October 27, 2006 at 1:32 pm | | Reply

    I’m a licker since way back.
    The absolutely most effective hypo treatment for me is Twizzlers Red Licorice Bites – they work incredibly fast and keep me elevated. However, I cannot stick to the “portion control” principle and would eat the entire jumbo-size bag. So, it’s the sour chalk tabs for me.

  12. Kevin
    Kevin October 27, 2006 at 2:38 pm | | Reply

    All clean up takes place in the pie-hole.

    RE: treatments for lows: I used to be a life-savers kid, like Lyhreca. After 10+ years, though, I grew tired of them and sought other candies. For a while I actually used to use 3 Musketeers bars (it had relatively low fat, but too many carbs (40, I think)). I stopped using them after I literally had to drink one on a hot day in Miami. What a mess!

    I now use glucose tabs. While they certainly aren’t the most pleasant tasting things in the world, they work really fast. And not being a type of sweet that I crave helps with portion control. Scott’s bit about the “puff” of glucose when the top is popped, made me laugh out loud! That happens all the time to me too.

  13. PrintCrafter
    PrintCrafter October 27, 2006 at 9:28 pm | | Reply

    I use to look for tissue, etc., then one day I was watching D-Life and one of the guys licked his finger off. So I figured if it was good enough for a D-Celeb is was good enough for me! Never looked back.

  14. Garald
    Garald October 27, 2006 at 11:04 pm | | Reply

    Thank you for writing this article. I started licking 2 weeks ago when I got tired of cheap bandages. I still use them if I test on my arm, but the fingers are now licked.

  15. Shawn Gotlib
    Shawn Gotlib October 28, 2006 at 9:07 am | | Reply

    I always lick my fingers after a bg test, it is instinctive behavior, and yes it grosses out my wife, or whoever may be there.

    The only time I wash my hands before testing is after riding on the nyc subway, as they say the grab rails on the trains harbor more bacteria than anything known to mankind.

  16. Vivian
    Vivian October 28, 2006 at 6:12 pm | | Reply

    Great article. Daniel wanted me to say thank you. He is a finger licker too and has heard so much from people not to do it. He is thrilled there are other vampire types, especially the adults. lol

  17. art-sweet
    art-sweet October 28, 2006 at 8:20 pm | | Reply

    Mmmm, blood.

    I can’t imagine what a PITA it would be not to do the vampire thing.

  18. gina
    gina October 29, 2006 at 8:34 pm | | Reply

    Hi my name is Gina and I am a finger licker 4life haha its just so much easier than using a tissue! haha…
    as for halloween candy, if i know candy is in the house, I will not sleep until every last piece is gone!!!! bring’ on the lows!! hahah let the chocolate hour begin!

  19. vicki
    vicki October 29, 2006 at 9:13 pm | | Reply

    Vicki the vampyre

  20. Hannah
    Hannah October 29, 2006 at 10:46 pm | | Reply

    I still freak my poor mother out to this day when I lick the blood off my finger, but if I am forced to test at the endo’s office, I will find a tissue because I’m embarassed to lick in their presence. I’m a “bad” diabetic as it is when they see me–I might as well at least appear hygenic!

  21. AmyT
    AmyT October 30, 2006 at 7:10 am | | Reply

    OMG, I so hear you! Especially Scott with the “sugar puff” that comes out of the glucose tabs vial — I’m always afraid they may have disintegrated, and then I’m not getting my full dose of sugar.

  22. Kim
    Kim October 30, 2006 at 8:33 am | | Reply

    Did you see my post on high sugar hand lotion? Funny you posted this just about the same time!
    I am a finger-licker most of the time. I don’t like the taste, it’s just convenient and less “medical waste” to worry about. People really don’t like to see kleenexes with blood spots all over them on your desk. I also think the saliva stops the bleeding faster.
    I keep glucose tabs in my purse expressly because they do taste so horrid. I am not tempted to have one for a sweet tooth moment. Lifesavers and jellybeans are gone too quickly to serve for low sugar reactions! It does really irritate me how much they cost though, but since a tube will last me about 6 months (T2), it’s not that much of an issue.

  23. Bernard Farrell
    Bernard Farrell October 30, 2006 at 6:57 pm | | Reply


    Definitely a finger licker. And I don’t care who sees it. (I don’t try to gross people out, so I keep it discreet – but if folks will insist on watching me!)

    As for treating lows. I generally go with Gatorade or glucose tabs. I’m glad they’ve FINALLY added some more reasonable flavors.

  24. Eric Jensen
    Eric Jensen October 31, 2006 at 6:25 pm | | Reply

    I’m with you on the finger licking.

    Watch out for inhaling that glucose dust! I’m a teacher, and one time a few years ago I felt a low coming on during class, so I popped a handful of Smarties while I was still lecturing. Trying to chew and talk at the same time (my mom was right – bad idea!) I inhaled a bunch of the dust, and then was laid low with a major coughing fit. My students thought the whole thing was quite amusing, though.

  25. Bill the diabetesdoc
    Bill the diabetesdoc November 3, 2006 at 5:14 am | | Reply

    I’ve put up a poll about this subject (thanks, Amy!) at the Diabetes Monitor, at

  26. Melissa
    Melissa November 4, 2006 at 3:26 am | | Reply

    Hahah! I just got back from vacationing in Disney World, where I received my first “dirty look” (as far as I’m aware anyway) for licking my finger after a glucose test. I always lick my finger afterwards, I have no time to be looking for a tissue and it’s such a minor thing, I didn’t even realize it could be construed as gross! Oh well, I also inject myself wherever I am. My attitude is that if it grosses people out so much, then maybe they’ll donate towards a cure to end it. Considering what we have to put up with having this disease, others can handle seeing stick ourselves or lick a drop of blood off our fingers.

  27. J.D. Long
    J.D. Long November 9, 2006 at 9:34 am | | Reply

    Just as a point of personal preference: I absolutely refuse to eat anything like a glucose tab. I always have a small bag of regular M&Ms stashed in case of hypoglycemic events.

    At work, I’ve got a bag of Dove Dark chocolates. Dark chocolates have antioxidants, you know — that’s healthy, surely.

    I used to lick my finger until I gagged watching a client do it to themselves — then I got a Freestyle which takes almost no blood at all — hence less bleeding, no licking.


  28. Cindy
    Cindy January 2, 2008 at 8:36 pm | | Reply

    Yup, I’m a finger licker too. My mom is the kleenex stasher when she checks hers. (Both type II) I’ve always just stuck my finger in my mouth after checking BG. More of a habit. Yes, I do agree, I don’t do it in front of my Endo basically because they slap the icky alcohol on it before I can pull my finger away. Blech, then I have the gauze stuck to my finger before I can go wash it off.

    As for the glucose tabs, I have a big bottle in my desk at work and in the kitchen at home and the little tube in my purse. I actually like the taste of the orange though wish it wasn’t to powdery. The other flavors I won’t even go near. Whenever I have a low I grin to myself sometimes looking for chocolate. My father in law, my mom and I are all diabetics and we have the biggest sweet tooths. Chocoholics to the extreme. Why is it that diabetics have the biggest sweet tooth? :)

  29. sweetblood
    sweetblood January 24, 2008 at 6:57 am | | Reply

    definetly a finger licker!!! I never wipe the blood on anything, licking it off is so much easier!!! It tastes kind of good to; Rusty with a slightly salty sweet taste “_” Even in the doctors office I lick it. the nurse has stopped saying anything and the doctor just gives me this look, like she saying “must you do that it’s so savage!) LOL!!! I also admit to rarely changing the lancet, I only change it after it stops pricking my finger efficently. As a result i have an overload of them in my cabinet. Just a note: yuo should all read the book SweetBlood by Pete Hautman it’s really, really good!

  30. anonymous
    anonymous January 25, 2008 at 9:55 am | | Reply

    I lick both before and after. Before to clean any food that might be on my fingers off so as not to screw up the results.

    I hate the glucose gel, it’s nasty. I haven’t tried glucose tablets cause their price tag pisses me off. I use Sweetarts. And no, I don’t like them, that’s why I use them. I don’t need some tempting food being carried around for emergencies else it’d be gone long before the emergency.

    I don’t dislike Sweetarts, but I don’t particularly like them, and they’re cheap so they work for me.

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