By The Sweat of My Fingertips


Between refrigeration and Frios, it’s easy enough to keep insulin cool on hot summer days.  Keeping ourselves cool, however, is not as easy.  It’s so hot in Tel Aviv that we’re sweating even with the air conditioning on.  Yesterday, after a 5:00 a.m. run, Mike spent thirty minutes standing in the bathroom trying to cool off before his shower. The sweat just wouldn’t stop.  And my sweating is at its worst now, too.

My sweating condition, palmar hyperhidrosis, has nothing to do with diabetes or exercise.  I often have sweaty palms as a result of an overactive sympathetic nervous system.  Normally, it’s not such a big deal.  I’m way past being embarrassed about it, and laugh at memories of melting Scantron test sheets in school so that they couldn’t be read.  But now I’m faced daily with tests I can’t afford to screw up- blood sugar tests.

Testing Blood Sugar - ErrorFor days Mike and I have been talking about our frustrations with sweat and blood sugar testing.  Sweat ruins diabetic test strips, or interferes with the accuracy of the reading.  I have to pour my test strips out of the bottle because if I stick a sweaty finger into it, I risk ruining all the test strips.  Drying my hands doesn’t help.  The minute I start thinking about my fingertips being sweaty, I sweat even more.

My solution is to use Abbott’s FreeStyle meter which allows me to test my blood sugar on my forearm.  It’s a less accurate reading than a fingertip provides, but it’s the best I can do.  When testing on the forearm, you need to rub the area before pricking to increase blood flow to the surface.  Because I can’t use a wet palm to rub my arm, I use my other forearm to rub.  This leaves me looking like some sort of crazed traffic controller.

Mike’s situation is more complicated; it’s even dangerous.  If he’s running with low (or high) blood sugar, he needs to know it!  He absolutely must have an accurate reading.  I’ve been thinking about this and wondering, what do athletes with diabetes do when they need to check blood sugar levels mid-run, mid-ride, mid-game, etc?  Does everyone have a CGM?  Is a CGM reliable enough?  In a recent blog post, Mike mentioned that he stopped running and wiped his finger on a wall to try to get rid of the sweat.  Like me, he can’t stick his fingers into the test strip bottle or pour one out into his wet hand.  This means he has to be in a place where he can pour test strips out onto a dry surface… not easy when you’re in the middle of a marathon.  “Do you have any idea how many strips I waste?” he has said to me.  “Do you know how many times my glucometer says error?”

Interestingly, when it comes to sweat, the better the test strip, the more it errs.  I love the new FreeStyle butterfly strips.  But Mike and I both agree that at the slightest hint of moisture, they fail.

Mike and I can’t be the only ones sweating it.  Anyone else?  What do you do?  Carry a little microfiber finger wipe?  I don’t think it would help enough.  I have no good answers.  I do, however, have some product name suggestions for the makers of glucometers and test strips, should they decide to create a sweat proof glucometer system.

Abbott: Sweat-FreeStyle

Roche:  Accu Sweat

Bayer: Cool as a Breeze2

LifeScan: One Touch UltraWet Mini

(Feel free to add to my suggestions!)

And while I’m throwing out names, it occurs to me that – at least during the summer months – perhaps this website would better be called


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6 years ago

I also have an overactive sympathetic nervous system! Been like that my whole life. I’ve never met anyone else with the condition. I have gestational diabetes right now and testing is really hard! I have the accu-chek nano. I use a pair of small tweezers to get the strips out of the container, but I have problems getting a good blood drop. It mixes with the sweat and just runs down my hand! It’s especially difficult b/c they want me to eat, exercise (I usually walk up hills or stairs, do step ups with weights), something that gets my heart… Read more »

Jan Stetson
Jan Stetson
10 years ago

How about putting a small pair of tweezers into the blood test kit? Use to remove strips from the vial and insert into meter. Good luck.

10 years ago

Have you tried the Optium Xceed meter?
It uses individually foil wrapped test strips.
Require minimal blood for testing (only 0.6µL) and I have found it easy to use for my young daughter and only takes 5 seconds to get a result! :)
You can use it on your finger, forearm, upper arm and base of the thumb
You could try use a bit of cotton ball (or something similar) to absorb the sweat and remove it right before you do your finger prick to see if that helps… 

Matt M.
Matt M.
10 years ago

Hmm, I’ve never found this to be a problem for me, and I’ve ridden my bike through Death Valley in 100-degree heat. (But it was a dry heat!) I only check using my forearm and upper arm – all the time, not just when I’m exercising. I haven’t found any issues with accuracy to be significant enough to make me switch to fingertips, given the advantages of less pain. I will usually wipe my upper arm with my sleeve a little before testing, and then go to work. I use One Touch ultra strips, and usually just pull one out… Read more »

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