The Virtues of the Blood Ketone Meter (And How to Get One for Free!)

by Leighann on August 16, 2011

Summary: The blood ketone meter is maybe one of the best kept secrets in managing type 1 diabetes in children. It’s as simple as a blood sugar check, can be done while they are sleeping, and doesn’t require urine like ketostix do. The results are real-time and don’t lag by two hours like urine tests do.

Precision Xtra Blood Ketone Meter

I can extol the virtues of the blood ketone meter for use with younger children at home and especially at school.

If there is one tool that I wish we had been told about at diagnosis, but didn’t find out about until much later, it’s the blood ketone meter. Seriously. Can’t imagine diabetes care without it now!

ketostixFor one thing, ketones in urine are about two hours behind. What does that mean? If you check for ketones with urine at 2:00 pm, it is really telling you what the ketone levels were at 12:00 pm. You have to wait two hours to see what ketones are right now. A blood ketone meter gives real time results. In other words, it tells you what ketone levels are right now. No waiting.

This comes in handy when your child is vomiting! Like when Q vomited right after her bedtime snack and I couldn’t keep her blood sugar up, yet she was developing ketones. Remember that 2:00 am trip to the ER?

Here’s the issue we ran into when Q was in kindergarten: Per her 504 plan, she needs to have her ketones checked with any blood sugar over 300 mg/dL and we are to be called. With the urine strips I had to leave work to come to school to try to help her pee on the stick for two reasons. First, the assistant principal who did much of her diabetes care was a male and he wasn’t going to help her pee in a cup. Second, the school nurse was only there for about 20 minutes at lunch time and I would rather Q spend the time right after lunch running around the playground bringing down that high BG than sitting in the bathroom with the nurse trying to pee in said cup. (At home we used to use the training potty for her to pee in when she had high blood sugars.)

Our protocol at school has changed dramatically for the better when she has a blood sugar over 300 mg/dL:

  1. Wash hands with soap and water and repeat blood sugar test. (We’ve had some false highs in the past from residue on fingers.)
  2. If the blood sugar is still over 300 mg/dL, check for ketones with the blood ketone meter.
  3. Call me to advise on if a correction is needed, how much, and when to recheck.

nova max blood ketone meterI’ve missed considerably less work using this system, that’s for sure!

Blood ketone strips are covered by some insurance companies and not covered by others. And they are expensive with insurance and crazy expensive without. But for us, they are worth the expense. Some insurance plans cover these under the pharmacy benefit and some cover them under durable medical equipment (DME).

There are now two choices in blood ketone meters. The Abbott Precision Xtra and the Novo Max Plus. Novo Max usually has an offer to get a free blood ketone meter.

And as a side note, we keep a ketone meter at home, at school, and in our preparedness kit. I think we have three of them and have never had to pay for the meter. We got a prescription for the meter itself and there has never been a copay when we’ve picked it up from the pharmacy. And we all know that companies practically give away the meters because they are making their money off of the test strips!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Roselady August 16, 2011 at 9:51 am

Thanks so much for including the link for the free meter. We were just talking about how it would be convenient to have one these.


2 Rachael August 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I just received this free meter and it worked good. I just have to find out if the Dr. will give me a script for the keytone test strips. It comes with 2.


3 Kelly August 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Hi! can you tell me where you get the ketone test strips? i acutally have this meter that the nurse gave me. she said i would have to choose the strips for this meter or for the one touch that we use that the ins would not cover both. so i thought i would just buy the ketone strips to have on hand but not sure where to find them? thanks!


4 Lucy August 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Smart idea!!! 2 in one!


5 Stacey Moore August 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I have one of these, but have yet to buy any strips. I need to do that. There have been several times that I have had to drag a sleeping Reagan out of bed to pee on a ketone stick. She rarely wakes up when we do an overnight check, so it is frustrating to wake her to check ketones. If she’s negative, she needs to sleep!


6 jessica booth August 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm

How do i get one….. theres times where my son needs to be tested for keytones but cant go pee..


7 Sherri F. January 15, 2013 at 6:44 am

What a great tool to have on hand – I ordered the free meter – it advised two to three weeks for processing. I’m excited about this find! Thank you!


8 L June 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I’m not sure if it’s the same but we have PRECISION XTRA & only blood glucose test strips to check sugars & sometimes (usually when high) the top of the screen says “KETONES” anyway without any special ketone strips.


9 Leighann July 5, 2013 at 8:41 am

Consult your user manual. Perhaps it is prompting you to check your ketones when the blood sugar is high. It uses two completely different strips. When reading your ketones it will give you a number, not just say “ketones.”


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