Alcohol swabs - glucometer,injection, vials, pens

I would like to know if anyone has had an infection from NOT using alcohol swabs on their fingers before checking their blood glucose when using a glucometer with strips (not a CGMS) ?

Has anyone had an infection from not using alcohol swabs at their injection site before injecting (pen, syringe)?

Has anyone had an infection or bad reaction from not alcohol swabbing the top of the insulin pen or the insulin vial?

This assumes that we have not been playing in dirt and that we exercise good judgment. (I'd probably wash my hands with soap and water and the injection site too if I had played in dirt. ;-))

If the insulin vial or insulin pen is dirty or has been exposed to dirt, how does wiping it with alcohol help?

These may seem like "stupid" questions, but with all the supplies, the checking, the monitoring, the counting of carbs, figuring out whether I may have gluten sensitivity, I'd like to focus on what's important (not going into hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic reaction and maintaining good control- between 90 and 140). The nurse/dietician looked at me and asked, "You don't clean your abdomen before you inject?"

Thanks in advance for your comments and experiences.

In 23 years I've had zero infections from not using alcohol before pricking my finger or injecting (I sometimes do when injecting, depending on where I am).

I do tend to use alcohol on the top of insulin vials when filling my pump, but if I go back to using a pen regularly (considering taking a pump vacation) I'm not sure I would. I can't remember if I used to do it when I was on MDI ...

I use alcohol to clean my skin when I'm changing my pump site and when I'm changing my CGM sensor. In my previous 10+ years of injecting, I never once used an alcohol swab before injecting or testing my sugar and was fine.

The only time I use alchohol swabs is if my hands are absolutely filthy and there’s no sink around to wash them (ie out fishing, hunting etc)

In 12 or so years of t2 I have never used alcohol swabs on my fingers and now that I use insulin too I dont use alcohol swabs on the injection site either. I do wash my hands before testing my bg level.

In 39 years I have never had an infection of any kind from injecting, pricking, poking, or filling syringes without the benefit of an alcohol prep.I wash my hands before I check my blood sugar. I do use an alcohol prep before I apply a new pod or a new Dexcom sensor but beyond that I don't use them at all. I have also injected through fabric without any undue effects.

thanks all for weighing in. and when we have neither access to alcohol wipes or soap and water?

If there is nothing else, then just wipe your hands on your clothes and hope for the best. Keep in mind that anything you have eaten or touched with your fingers could affect your readings.

I don't use alcohol swabs on anything ,I only would if I pumped that's a kind of different ball game. I would want to alcohol swab my fingers because alcohol dries skin and I already have callusing there. I suggest just throughly washing your hands before testing your blood sugar if you want clean hands.

Some of this has to do with the very different environments that we live with compared to a hospital. Ask a nurse and they will give you an answer based on what they were taught in order to handle the extreme environment of the hospital. In the hospital you can get MRSA which is especially prevalent. I am frankly quite clumsy and constantly walk around with all kinds of small (and sometimes large) wounds. I'm not concerned about my home environment, but in a hospital I would want to use an alcohol wipe before lancing or injecting.

For about 30+ years I have tested, and the only time I get alchohol on my fingers is in the doctors office (I talked my way out of that already) and the hospital. I have never personally used alcohol and I have never gotten an infection. not once. Just had to share.

I never use alcohol for anything other than a nice Bordeaux with a Ribeye. :slight_smile:

No infections, and I’m guilty of only changing my lancets every couple months, and I also often inject through my clothes.

wouldn't any infection likely to arise from any of the above be likely no more pronounced than a pimple and thus likely go unnoticed?

Possibly, although I have not noticed any. Maybe this is one of the few benefits of being a T1 and thus having an over-active immune system.

I have also heard that some people do not change the needles on their insulin pen except "periodically" and have not suffered any negative consequences.

@ Christopher, Bordeaux and Ribeye, thumbs up!

I guess the most clarifying way to look at this for me is this: Do I make sure I clean the area well with isopropol alcohol before I get a scrape? Accidentally poke myself with a safety pin (happens all too often :-))? Accidentally cut myself with a utility knife (again, far too often :-))?

Many of these assaults to my body are far, far, FAR more damaging and "intruding" than a fingerstick, or (far less) an injection.

That said, I do clean my finger with a swab every time I do a BG check. Two reasons: I've had too many times the number was whack, and had to clean then test again. If you're not pretty much totally sure what's on your visually clean finger, my experience is I can't be absolutely sure of the result. So, I always clean it off. I rarely go all the way over to the sink or bathroom to wash my hands, though, unless that's more convenient.

Second reason is I've just found that, for me, cleaning with alcohol before, and then after the stick seems to make a big difference in healing. I don't have the "pepper fingers" problem that so many others have complained about. However, I do start to accumulate some of those spots if I don't follow my sterilize - sample - sterilize routine.

In 33 years of finger sticks and 19 years of multiple injections, before pump, i have never cleaned fingers or skin with alcohol. I did multiple injections from diagnosis in 1982 and never cleaned for those after the first couple months. Well, hopefully my skin was reasonably clean but certainly no more than what a shower a day would do, and typical hand washing.

Now, if you work outside and/or roll in the dirt, I think you should swab! But, I am not telling you what to do otherwise. I do use IV prep for insulin & cgm site use, due to need for sticking.

I do not have the pepper spots that Dave mentioned.

I don't clean off my insulin bottle either. Not bragging, just never have. I think this is good from a yahoo answer several years ago:
The best thing is just to wash your hands well with soap and water and make sure your fingers are dry. Rubbing alcohol can dry out your fingers making it more painful to prick them.

I don't know how true that is, in practice. Plain water cleans also, with a bit of scrubbing.

For subcutaneous injections one does not need to use an alcohol wipe provided that the skin is not visibly soiled. I read that on a WHO page. Anyone who wants to use alcohol wipes, be my guest. Buy stocks int he company that makes the alcohol wipes. I would rather spend my coin on other things. :)