If you’ve read my previous posts, you already are getting a sense that I LOVE our Dexcom G4. It is literally a life-saver and we are way too paranoid to not know what our daughter’s blood glucose is doing at any given time. (The saddest country song has it more together than my daughter’s blood glucose stability). So suffice to say, about a month ago we pulled off her G4 and noticed it was really bumpy/scaly underneath. I thought she might have a bit of dermatitis from the tape, so I scrubbed it extra in the shower and forgot about it…..until the next site change. Her other arm under the tape looked like a chemical burn. It was weeping, raw, and angry. We have always covered the Dexcom tape with a layer of Opsite Flexifix and the wound was only under the area of the Dexcom tape but not under the Opsite which extends way beyond the perimeter. (We live in FL, our daughter is very active, and she’s a sweat-er so we've done Opsite each time around the borders). We went back to the arm that originally had the bumps (which had turned a bit pink after scrubbing) but a week later we pulled it off and found another weeping, chemical burn-looking wound that was even worse than the first one. I try to take most things in stride but all I could think about was my daughter as a teenager and young woman having scars on her body from years of adhesive allergies. It made me determined to find a solution. (BTW - in case you are curious, it took about 3 weeks for the burn-like wounds to heal and the skin is still a bit rough in the area. The worst arm looks like it has a white coloration instead of pink/red. If you've ever worked with burn patients or have been burned yourself, you know that burns start red/pink and fade to white as they heal. It took a couple of months for the white to go away.)
About 1 week after "burn" wound from Dexcom adhesive
- So we tried her stomach next along with IV Prep underneath but she is very lean in the area and the sensor failed within 30 minutes. We googled Dexcom rash and Holy Toledo(!), the images looked identical.
- So next we tried her leg with the Dexcom tape placed on top of two layers of Opsite with a hole cut in it, along with the Dexcom tape trimmed down, then covered with another two layers of Opsite (with a hole for the transmitter). We also stopped cleansing with an alcohol wipe and started soap and water to reduce dryness. When it came off a week later, it looked better. Slightly purple underneath the square of the Dexcom tape (the new shape we had trimmed it to). However, when I attempted to clean it with a washcloth, the skin sloughed off to reveal pink underneath which meant she was still reacting to it.
- Next up was a double layer of Opsite underneath with no hole cut out, I punched through the tape directly with the Dexcom sensor so that the adhesive has even less opportunity to come into contact with her skin. Again I trimmed the Dexcom tape and sandwiched it underneath another two layers of Opsite. It wasn’t a complete success because the site turned pink underneath the next day. We decided to stop it on day 7 from now on.
Somewhere in the deep crevices of internet advice I stumbled upon one or two recommending a blast from an asthma inhaler before applying the adhesive. The theory is that the corticosteroid of an asthma inhaler inhibits the allergic reaction of the tape. Creams beforehand would not allow the tape to stick at all, so you have to think outside the box. Hence, an aerosol format. Makes sense to me! So I brought it up while getting her flu shot from her pediatrician and he sent me home with a sample. Yippee! I love not fighting with Dr.’s about weird remedies like that. I also had heard rave reviews about the Johnson & Johnson tough pads working as a barrier underneath.
So after months of doing the above regiment, we added a barrier wipe. We also rotate between both arms, as well as 2 areas on both legs. Belly is still out of the question due to her being too lean and the amount of ???.
We currently have the following system and takes an additional 5-10 minutes:
- Clean w/soap & water
- Spray asthma inhaler Qvar 40 (or Flonase, a nasal allergy spray recommended by her Endo)
- Doughnut swipe with IV Prep (Minus "doughnut hole" where sensor wire punctures through skin)
- J&J Tough Pad
- Dexcom (with adhesive trimmed to fit onto Tough Pad without getting near edges)
- Wipe edges of both Dexcom G4 tape and Tough pad down with more IV Prep (to aid in sticking)
- Strips of Opsite flexifix tape down the edges of Dexcom/tough pad.
- One more strip that I place on the very edge of Dexcom transmitter (fat end only). I overlap a bit on the transmitter, the plastic casing, and the rest is on the adhesive. I do this along the back end then fold the opsite towards the body of the Dexcom (like a fat "U" shape) so that there is no gap between opsite and the transmitter.
-(Extra summertime fun requires vetwrap to help prevent tape from peeling. If you need help keeping the vetwrap on, make sure you tighten enough that you can fit a finger underneath the stretch but no more to where you are cutting off circulation or causing a compression low. Then secure the ends with a butterfly bandage.)
To remove the system on day 7, we use Unisolve to make sure all the adhesive is wiped off, then we wash the Unisolve off. Apply a good moisturizer.
The moral of this update is to not give up on the CGM. Because so far so good! We tend to rotate between 4-6 separate areas so that we do not reuse a site more than every 4-6 weeks or so. Compared to the previous chemical burn reaction though, we'll take a bit of pink bumps for those few times it gets a bit more irritated (and usually only notice a reaction to the Opsite Flexifix IF we have to re-do the tape at any point during the 7 days. If we don't add the IV prep/Qvar step underneath the Opsite, it seems like she turns red underneath the Opsite for a day with itching.) But overall, we have been using this system for about a year and a half now and found that it works as the only solution that will allow us to continue using the CGM. We rarely, rarely have failed sensors even with the IV prep and Tough Pad underneath. (I mean like maybe 1 per 6 months, if that?). And even better, Flonase is now available OTC so if you are unable to get the Qvar 40 from your doctor, just try the Flonase. It takes a lot longer to dry since it is liquid, but still worth it!
Have also heard from Dexcom's CEO that they are aware of the issues with the adhesive for those of us in the group of people who are sensitive to the ingredients. They are working to find other adhesives that can be worn without issue but yet will still stick. Carry on Dexcom!