This is a review of the UK home blood test kit from Thriva. It contains images of blood as well as language that describes blood. So, if you’re not great with blood, proceed with caution!
For both professional and personal interests, I’m taking a home blood test.
I’ve certainly always been interested in how my body works. I do have a collection of x-rays and photos taken during surgeries just so I can see what my inners look like, for example. But I’m not sure if I can honestly say that it’s my health that drives this curiosity.
However, in recent years something has begun to bring my health into sharper focus: my muscles feel stiffer in the mornings plus it’s getting harder to lose weight. Injuries take longer to heal (such as my ongoing foot issue from dancing too vigorously to ‘Footloose‘ in the kitchen last year). And where does all this phlegm come from?
If this sounds familiar to you, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
I’m getting old.
Age is not a barrier but ageing does have an impact on our health. With an ageing population and rising dementia, it’s important to greet this inevitable and natural process with knowledge and empowerment.
So, hello to home blood tests.
Specifically, hello to Thriva.
What is Thriva?
Thriva describes itself as a preventative health service. Instead of waiting for something to go wrong, Thriva enables people to proactively manage their health. By tracking their blood test markers, people can understand their current health, make improvements and help prevent conditions from developing.
The home blood test allows people to take samples in their own homes and send them off for testing. It’s a subscription service, meaning the tests are repeated at regular intervals and so allows individuals to monitor their ongoing health.
Why pay for blood tests?
That’s a good question (thanks).
Living in the U.K. I have access to healthcare via the NHS. The NHS is funding more preventative initiatives across the country, however, it’s still a service that’s limited by budget and so has to prioritise the care it offers.
In other words, the NHS isn’t an all-inclusive service where you have access to any treatment you want. For example, cosmetic surgery and vasectomy reversals are not funded by the NHS. The NHS is there when I need medical attention.
Being proactive about my health means I can (hopefully) avoid conditions that would need me to see a doctor.
So, paying for these blood tests gives me access to a service that complements the NHS. Plus, I don’t have to leave my house: I don’t need to book any appointments or visit a GP or hospital to have the blood taken or to “discuss my results”.
What home blood tests did I choose?
You can opt for set packages of tests from basic functions to a more comprehensive suite of tests. I choose to personalise which blood tests I wanted (because I didn’t realise there were set packages when I ordered my tests). Here are the tests I chose based on my health concerns and goals:
- Vitamin B9 and B12 (active)
- Advanced Iron Profile
- Liver Function
- Lipid Profile
- Thyroid Profile
- Vitamin D
Using the home blood test kit
The home blood test kit from Thriva arrives in a neat and well-design package that is complete with everything you need to take a sample and return it in the post:
- Collection tubes
- Alcohol swab
- Cleansing wipes
- Protective case
- Return form and pre-paid mailing bag
The home blood test kit comes with needles housed inside these lancets. You can’t see the needles, before or after you have used them. I’m going to assume they are tiny needles…
There is some preparation involved before you can take your blood samples:
- Make sure you are properly hydrated by drinking eight glasses of water* the day before
- Fast for eight hours before
- Drink 2 glasses of water 30 minutes before
*Because eight glasses of water isn’t ambiguous. Personally, I would prefer to have a volume stated e.g. two litres of water.
As per the instructions, I soaked my hand in hot water for three minutes and began to swing my arm about and clench my fist to get the blood flowing just prior to taking my samples.
I have to admit that all this prep was making me a little nervous.
I am not squeamish and generally I totally cool with blood and needles. However, the concept of deliberately jabbing myself in order to bleed into a tube does make one a tad uncomfortable.
The box doubles-up as a nifty stand for your blood collection tube. For my tests, I had two tubes to fill and I was surprised at their volumes: can all that blood really come from a finger-prick?
Bleeding into tubes
Following the kit’s instructions, I used the lancet to prick the outside of my little finger pad. You do this by twisting off the cap, placing your hand on a hard surface like a table and pushing the lancet down quickly onto your finger. The needle clicks out and in again and punctures your skin.
You have to keep massaging your hand to keep the blood flowing/dripping from your finger. Which it does without much help to start with.
But, I found it difficult to produce enough blood from my little finger. The kit provides a total of three lancets so I tried twice more with my ring and middle fingers. But, after a few drops, the wound would clot and the bleeding would stop.
I managed about half the amount of blood required for the tests.
Really frustrating (and quite messy).
I contacted Thriva and ordered a second testing kit. I got the impression that this was a common outcome for first-time blood takers. Thriva’s customer service was very good and pointed me in the direction of additional advice when taking blood samples.
The second kit arrived very quickly and this time I successfully collected enough blood.
The additional sample collecting information would have proven useful first time around. I am a bit annoyed that the additional info wasn’t provided as a default.
I suspect that the concise and neat design of the sample collecting kit you receive in the post may compromise on how much information Thriva can include. In an effort to show how simple and easy it is to collect your blood, they fail to share some vital tips.
My tips for doing your own home blood test kit sample collection are:
- Read all the instructions before starting.
- Use the hottest water you can safely submerge your hand in prior to taking the sample.
- Really, really swing your arm around. Imagine you’re a helicopter you’re trying to take off.
- Clench and unclench your hand rapidly until the muscles start to fatigue.
- Remember to take the lids off the sample collection tubes before you use the lancets…
- If the blood flow stops, wipe the would with a clean tissue to remove clots to keep the blood flowing.
Point 6 above was the vital tip that, in my opinion, should have been included in the kit’s instruction booklet. I think I would have successfully collected my samples the first time if I had known I could do this.
Once filled, you label the tubes, pop them into the protective tray and put them in the mailer envelope (and then have a tidy up).
You need to post the samples back the same day as you collect your blood. And then just wait for your results.