Wayback Wednesday: Finger Lickin’ Good

Confession time: I test my glucose everywhere. I don’t care who sees. That includes the checkout line at Trader Joe’s, where some fellow shoppers looked especially grossed out the other day not simply by my drawing blood, but the act of licking my finger afterward. It’s none of their business of course (they don’t have to do this crap!) but it reminded me that four years after I wrote about diabetes finger lickin’, I haven’t found any great alternatives…

So do you?  Here’s the original post — a little off-season from October 2006:

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.

Afterwards, some readers organized a poll.

Turns out, of over 500 respondents, nearly 50% do the finger lick “every time” or “frequently.”  I find this strangely comforting ;) .  Seriously though, who’s got a better idea?


29 Responses

  1. Crystal
    Crystal February 24, 2010 at 6:49 am | | Reply

    Tissue. Almost 25 years and I have Never licked. Ewwww! (no offense to the many that do) I wrapped my finger in a piece of tissue. Not sure this is a better idea but no licking for me.

    And as far as lows? Yeah, a chance for Anything but those chalky, cough inducing, nasty glucose tabs.

    (captcha: rockefellers psyching…. really? Ha.)

  2. Kristin
    Kristin February 24, 2010 at 9:02 am | | Reply

    In thirty years of testing (well – 30 yrs of D, but I started with urine testing – WAY blechier!) I have never done this either. It grosses me out, not because of the blood, but because the fingers are the germiest, dirtiest part of the body. Whenever I can, I wash my hands first – or at least make sure I haven’t been doing anything grimy with them – and then test. Then I “blot” with a small piece of napkin, tissue, etc. If I am in a “fancy” restaurant that has cloth napkins? Then I’ll go to the bar and ask for a paper one. (They usually use them as coasters for drinks.) Can’t imagine routinely putting the dirtiest part of my body into my mouth….!

  3. Meri
    Meri February 24, 2010 at 9:36 am | | Reply

    If there is an alternative around, my boys use it…but otherwise they lick their finger too. They don’t like others seeing them do it though. They are even embarrassed when they see me watching. But, eh, what you gonna do? I’M not judging them. My 8 year old explained to me once that if he is wearing a dark shirt, he’ll wipe it on that. Otherwise…he licks it. And let’s face it, when you test 8-10 times a day, often on the fly, there isn’t always a tissue handy.

    (I’m going to show this post to them after school…I’m sure it will be comforting for them. :)

  4. Jana
    Jana February 24, 2010 at 9:53 am | | Reply

    I just downed 10 or so of those lovely glucose tabs and thought to myself that I am the envy of every child! I get to shovel candy in my mouth like I need it! Oh, yeah, I do Need it.
    lable me as a licker

  5. emily
    emily February 24, 2010 at 10:29 am | | Reply

    my son’s so grossed out by the idea of licking blood of his finger. he, too, compulsively either washes his hands or more likely uses an alcohol swab (c’mon he’s 10 and his hands are usually too grimey to get an accurate number) then uses the same alcohol swab to clean the blood off. Our neighbor licks her fingers and it makes my son’s skin crawl when he sees it. hahah!

  6. Leighann of D-Mom Blog
    Leighann of D-Mom Blog February 24, 2010 at 10:30 am | | Reply

    I usually apply a little pressure to my daughter’s fingertip and it stops bleeding. But she likes to grab a Kleenex and then hold said tissue for about 10 minutes until I say “Okay, I think you’ve stopped bleeding. You can put that Kleenex down.”

  7. susan
    susan February 24, 2010 at 11:18 am | | Reply

    Yep, I’m a licker. Been doing it for as long as I can remember… namely, I think I started doing it when I dated a guy with D who did that. Notably, I find it less gross than carrying around blood stained tissues everywhere.

  8. Bill_H
    Bill_H February 24, 2010 at 11:23 am | | Reply

    Me, too…always licking the blood off. I figure that the germs give my immune system something to do. Last time it got board, it ate my beta-cells…

  9. Osob
    Osob February 24, 2010 at 11:39 am | | Reply

    I am a licker have been for years and will never stop unless there is a cure for diabetes,its so much easier and less hassle.

  10. Hans
    Hans February 24, 2010 at 11:48 am | | Reply

    Ever thought about them real quantities? 200mg/dl means that there are just 2 grams of glucose per liter (roughly about 1000 grams) of blood running in your veins – as tested in less than 1 gram of that blood at your finger prick.

  11. Robin
    Robin February 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm | | Reply

    Though I’ve licked on rare occasion, it’s only been if hands were just washed and nothing else available. Way too many germs and as I get older, my germaphobe meter increases…..sick w/ flu and bronchitis right now from germs…. Wreaking havoc on half marathon training. *sigh….* Keep hands out of mouth…yuck. :-)

  12. T1 in Boston
    T1 in Boston February 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm | | Reply

    Thank goodness there are meters that require a much smaller sample of blood than back in the day. I do something a little weird – I rub what’s left of the drop into my finger with another finger (like my thumb). Kind of smearing it away. I think that’s kinda gross too, but as someone above said, eh, what ya gonna do? (and Bill H. –> Bwa-ha-ha! :-)

  13. Rich
    Rich February 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm | | Reply

    My 15-yr-old son (T1 Apr 2000) usually wipes on other hand or arm; rarely continues to bleed. Always washes hands or uses a piece of moist toilet paper to clean site. If it continues to bleed, he uses the TP. Thank you for your articles.

  14. Harry
    Harry February 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm | | Reply

    I’m a semi-licker…I can’t stand the taste of blood, so I lick an opposing finger (or thumb) and use that to smear the pricked finger into a clean(er) state. I thought for sure there must be other people out there that do the same thing, but so far it looks like I’m the only one. Hmm.

  15. Jamie
    Jamie February 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm | | Reply

    LOL! I think the only time I don’t lick my fingers is when I’m at the doctor’s office…. I so taste nothing when I lick my fingers, but I do so love grossing people out when they show a reaction to my action! :D

  16. xim1970
    xim1970 February 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm | | Reply

    Oh, yeah, I do it! And when I was a teen (ages ago) I’d let my sugar go low just so I could consume some sweets (this was before glucose tabs)! Ahhh, the good ol’ days!

  17. Alyssa
    Alyssa February 24, 2010 at 8:51 pm | | Reply

    I used to lick a long while back. Now I just have a folded up paper towel in my case that I wipe my finger on. Works pretty well and if there’s some sort of geyser effect or something exciting like that, I’m always prepared.

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    Mcguire20Ora February 24, 2010 at 10:52 pm | | Reply

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  19. T1 in Boston
    T1 in Boston February 24, 2010 at 11:28 pm | | Reply

    xim1970, we were both diagnosed in 1981. I could swear those ENORMOUS rectangular BD orange-tasting glucose “tablets” were around back then…. (they were in a blister pack – hard to get out!).

    Glad I’m not the only “smearer” out here. But truly, the drop required by the OneTouch Ultralink is pretty tiny, and I can adjust my lancet device to extract almost the precise amount….

  20. Richard
    Richard February 25, 2010 at 3:58 am | | Reply

    I’m not adding tissues to the stuff I am already forced to carry around all the time.

    But then again, I taste gooood.

  21. Søren Andersen
    Søren Andersen February 25, 2010 at 5:49 am | | Reply

    The little case for my meter has a small “flap” that easily handles a folded piece of tissue for dabbing off blood!

    Just couldn’t bring my self to licking it off :/

  22. Christine
    Christine February 26, 2010 at 9:25 am | | Reply

    I’ve never been a licker as I cannot stand the metallic taste of blood. I used to keep a cotton ball or tissue in my meter case. Now, I just rub the extra blood away with my thumb. Thanks for the post – I’ve always wondered what other people did!

  23. Linda
    Linda February 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm | | Reply


  24. Robin
    Robin February 26, 2010 at 2:40 pm | | Reply

    I try not to lick – not too keen on the taste, but when errant blood takes off, especially at work or near clothes, I do what I have to! I’m a bit of a germaphobe, too, so fingers in the mouth = pretty disgusting to me. I don’t test when I run, so that hasn’t been an issue (yet).

  25. Shannon
    Shannon March 1, 2010 at 4:26 am | | Reply

    I love your site, by-the-way, it’s so refreshing! Since my son is the one with diabetes (he’s seven, diagnosed at 4) I don’t lick his fingers, but I’ll rub it with one of mine and may or may not wash it off. Sometimes I forget about it and walk around with dried blood on one of my fingers, it so doesn’t gross me out, for whatever reason. I guess I feel like it’s the least I can do for my little guy! If I were to lick it, however, I would definitely raise suspicion about being a vampire…;-)

  26. Kay
    Kay March 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm | | Reply

    Being a newly diagnosed PWD, when I was given my meter, the nurse neatly folded a tissue and placed it behind the little log book in my meter case. Then she explained that when I test, I’ll have a little extra blood on my finger and to just blot it with the tissue. I must admit that I thought this idea was a little strange, but after testing for 6 weeks, it is a smooth system. I change the tissue a couple times a week and it cleans my fingers nicely. To lick my fingers would just be gross!!!

  27. Cath
    Cath March 8, 2010 at 6:57 pm | | Reply

    licker – but a guilty licker, until now. honestly, it is kind of gross. but i think that carrying around a bloody tissue is gross as well. i don’t think i can change after this long – and i test everywhere also.

  28. Gail
    Gail March 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm | | Reply

    I am a newbe, with 4 yrs experience. Soo I have never thought of the licking, I think my mouth is probably not the most sanitary. I am careful not to let bacteria enter my openings of skin. When I think about the germs in my childrens school, door knobs. ect. Just trying to not catch anymore bugs than I have too.
    But do check it anywhere, anytime I feel it is off. And it always pays off. Cuts down on the headaches, blurred vision, ect. It’s all good. Just do what I need to take the best care of self I possibly can. People tend to be judgementle when they don’t have a clue or understanding.

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