Whether you’re thinking about trying your first at-home blood test or you’re a seasoned self-tester, you might have a few questions before taking that ever-so-important sample.
Here’s everything you need to know about preparing for your blood test.
Pre-test prep: What to do before an at-home blood test
These tips will help you prepare for any at-home blood test:
At least 72 hours before your test
Read the instructions in your test kit and watch imaware’s collection instructions video.
There are some standard pre-test instructions that apply to most at-home blood tests. These can include:
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and other specified substances
- Cleaning the collection site
- Doing light warm-up exercises to maximize blood flow (unless contraindicated, i.e. your doctor has told you to avoid exercise)
Some tests may also require fasting, abstaining from sexual or physical activity, or modifying your diet.
You’ll also need to pay attention to whether there is a recommended time of day to take your sample.
It’s a great idea to watch this video before getting started, because it can help take the mystery out of the process:
Set a date
If you can, try to take your test early in the workweek, and mail the specimen back to the lab well before the weekend. This minimizes the time your sample takes in transit and may speed up your results.
If your test requires you to give up food, coffee, sex or strenuous exercise, use your cell phone to set reminders or place sticky notes in strategic spots throughout your home. If you’re doing an at-home test from imaware, you’ll receive reminders during checkout and via email.
And if you slip up and eat or drink before a test that requires fasting, or have sex before one that requires abstinence? Save the test for another day and repeat the steps above.
20 to 30 minutes before your test
Drink plenty of water
Being well-hydrated makes it easier to get a good sample, whether you’re at home or at your healthcare professional’s office.
Five minutes before your test
Light movement before taking your sample helps get your blood pumping, which can make it easier to collect a sample. Depending on your fitness levels and doctor’s instructions, this could be brisk walking, jumping jacks, seated arm-raises, sit-ups, etc. Anything that gets you moving in a way that’s suitable to your current fitness will help.
Review the instructions and set your kit out
Have everything you need laid out neatly and close at hand.
Wash your hands in warm water
It's not just a matter of hygiene, although that's important, too — washing your hands in warm water helps get your blood flowing, making it easier to draw a good sample.
Take a deep breath
Afraid of needles? It may help to know that the needle included in imaware’s lancet is not visible until after the prick has been made. Using the lancet is easy, quick and less painful than a traditional needle.
Put a ring finger on it
Your ring finger is the best choice when taking a home test, because it’s generally less calloused than the others. (If you’re giving a blood sample at your doctor’s office or a lab, consider using your non-dominant arm in the unlikely event of bruising.)
Don’t worry if your first finger prick doesn’t produce enough blood volume. Only a few drops are needed for most tests, and imaware’s test kits include two lancets so you can take a second sample if necessary. Also called “fingerstick”, this finger-prick procedure is minimally invasive, low risk and significantly easier than accessing a vein.¹
Take it easy (don’t squeeze-y)
It’s not a good idea to squeeze your finger, because this kind can cause the red blood cells to burst in a process known as hemolysis.² Luckily hemolysis can easily be avoided if you remember not to squeeze.
Preparing for specific tests
Here’s how to prepare for specific imaware at-home health tests:
Are at-home blood tests accurate?
At-home blood collection can be just as accurate as lab-based blood tests. In a 2019 article published in Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, imaware’s celiac disease screening test was independently validated to be as accurate as conventional lab tests.³ And a 2015 study published in BMC Clinical Pathology found that dried blood spot sampling from a finger prick was as accurate as a traditional venous blood draw for measuring HbA1c.⁴
imaware’s tests are designed and validated by leading medical professionals and scientific researchers and processed at labs that have been certified by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), among the world’s most stringent medical standards.
What factors can affect blood test results?
Some factors we’ve explored today are in your control, like how much you’ve exercised, whether or not you’ve had sex recently and what you did — or didn’t — eat before providing your blood sample.
Other factors are out of your hands. These can include shipping time and temperature, and the operational particulars of lab machinery. It’s important to note that this is true of all blood tests, not just at-home blood tests.
Doing a blood draw at home for the first time is probably easier than you think. It can be helpful to know that the finger prick is quick and relatively painless and that the needle isn’t visible until after you’ve taken your sample. Plus, research has shown at-home blood tests to be just as accurate as traditional tests. By taking the time to understand and prepare for your test, you can get a great sample from the comfort of home.