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Keeping the Dexcom Stuck.

It’s been almost a year since the first itchy, blistering rashes showed up underneath my Dexcom sensors, but by taking a very peculiar set of precautions, the rashes are all but gone.  Thanks to the use of the J&J Toughpad underneath my Dexcom sensors, I’m able to go a full seven (plus!) days without reacting rashly.

So yay! for no rash.  But now keeping that sucker stuck is another issue entirely.

It’s not just the sensor that I’m trying to keep stuck, but the whole Toughpad/sensor combination.  Peeling edges of any kind create a domino effect where, if not addressed immediately, the whole sensor will just flop the eff off.  (Like on those days when I put a new sensor on and then pull on a pair of pants.  If the edge of the Toughpad gets compromised in any way, with rolling edges or peeling, that sensor has a life shorter my fuse … which is unfortunately quite short.)

The life of my average Dexcom G4 sensor goes as follows:

  • Prep my skin by taking a shower.  (Or, if I haven’t just showered, I wash my skin with soap and water and let it dry before starting the application process.)
  • Warm up the Toughpad by rubbing it vigorously in my hand.  (HA!  Mis-wrote that as “rubbing it vigorously with my nad” at first.  Nad warming.  Bwaaa haaaa!)
  • Stick the Toughpad to my skin and press firmly, making sure it’s stuck.
  • Remove the adhesive backing from the Dexcom sensor and place the sensor on top of the Toughpad, so that none of the sensor adhesive is touching my skin.
  • Install the sensor.  And roll on with it, as is, for a few days.
  • Once the Toughpad starts to peel (usually around day three or four), I slap some magical Opsite Flexifix tape on the edges.
  • Once the tape is starting to peel and the edges of the Toughpad are lifting away from my skin a little bit, I use the teeny, super-sharp scissors from my sewing kit and snip away the un-stuck edges of tape and Toughpad, leaving a smaller ring of Toughpad around the sensor base.
  • Then I tape that shit down again.
  • This snip-and-tape process goes on for as long as I can manage, helping prolong the life of the sensor and to also keep my frustration at a reasonable level.  See the photo above for a Dexcom sensor/Toughpad combo that’s been whittled down.

I don’t know why it works, but it does, and it helps keep my Dexcom sensor stuck for the FDA-approved seven days … and then some.

Here’s a link to the Opsite Flexifix tape, and to the Toughpads, in case you’re interested in checking them out.

33 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m just glad I don’t get the rashy rashy (knock on wood!) and don’t have to go through such lengths to adhere my sensor. Skin-Tac and Opsite flexifix keep mine on for 2+ weeks easy. Just curious – does the sensor wire thingy go *through* the Toughpad, or do you cut a hole in the Toughpad?

    07/24/13; 10:39 am
    • Answered my own question – read your previous post and saw where you deployed the sensor right through the Toughpad. You are brilliant.

      07/24/13; 10:42 am
  2. Robin #

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

    07/24/13; 10:40 am
  3. “Then I tape that shit down again.” That bullet is at least in the top five of your best bullet points ever.

    07/24/13; 10:44 am
  4. YAY! So glad it’s working for you. I would cry w/out my Dexcom.

    07/24/13; 11:09 am
  5. Not that I have to go through what you do to keep a Dexcom sensor on but I am noticing I need more tape and sooner with the G4. And I absolutely hate the pulling-up-the-pants-rolling-of-the-edges!!

    07/24/13; 11:32 am
    • Maybe we should wear more skirts? ;)

      07/24/13; 12:07 pm
      • Yes.

        and

        No.

        Yes to the peely leg edges. No to the skirts.

        07/24/13; 11:17 pm
  6. Laurie #

    I’m glad you’ve found a solution. Thanks for sharing. So far we haven’t any issues with the Dexcom adhesive on my dd but she has sensitive skin (runs in the family, sigh) so I worry it may pop up. Good to know what to try if it does!

    And I agree with Sarah, awesome line!

    07/24/13; 12:36 pm
  7. Liz #

    Love that you install the Dexcom over the Toughpad. Great idea. Just got my Dexcom 4 months ago and for the first few weeks it only stayed on for 3-4 days. I’m currently taping it with regular old first aid adhesive which helps extend the life a lot longer.

    Also I was told and have found this to be true that if I tape it as soon as I apply and start a new sensor the tape helps it stay on longer than if I start to tape it after the edges around my sensor start to fray. Inevitably I end up taping 2x during the week plus that I leave it on, but taping at the beginning has been key for me.

    07/24/13; 12:48 pm
  8. Sheri #

    I do the same as Liz, the heavy duty waterproof stuff. Usually add it on Day 4 and replace on Day 6. It’s definitely not attractive so I may need to change the strategy especially since I’ve taken the plunge and put it in my arm for the first time yesterday (always creeped me out, but it’s about the only place I have left due to my expanding pregnant belly making the readings off no matter how far off to the side I go!).
    Kerri, since you have an in with Dexcom, any hints on improvements to the adhesive? Seems like most of us have this issue.

    07/24/13; 1:21 pm
    • Leah M #

      I read somewhere to try using a loofah on the site before applying. I just use a damp washcloth and some soap and scrub lightly, then dry and alcohol swab, then dry and stick on the Dexcom. My sites have stayed on much better with this. Once it starts to come loose, I apply a giant Tegaderm over the whole thing–this sometimes gets me to 12-14 days, depending on how much I sweat and get it wet.

      07/24/13; 7:37 pm
      • zip #

        Leah – do you place the Tagaderm over the transmitter too?

        07/25/13; 9:25 am
  9. DUDE! I cannot get anything to work. I swear I am going to get an elastic band like a mega tight tube top and wear it where ever the sensor is.

    I never EVER get it to stay on for 7 days. NEVER.

    07/24/13; 2:17 pm
    • Have you tried the opsite tape? Sticks like a mothereffer. <– technical term

      07/24/13; 2:29 pm
      • I tried to put that stuff on him and it just peeled right off WITH the sensor!

        07/24/13; 11:36 pm
      • zip #

        Kerri — Have you tried using the opsite tape over the transmitter, or do you stick to the adhesive area? I’m looking for better solutions for summer swimming and sweating!

        07/25/13; 9:27 am
        • I put the tape over the adhesive edges, not the transmitter itself. I’m at the beach/in the water all summer long, and I’ve noticed the tape really helps!

          07/25/13; 9:39 am
  10. Sounds like the perfect set of procedures for when it’s hot as nads out.

    07/24/13; 2:17 pm
  11. Donald #

    What is the thickness of the toughpad?
    I am pleasantly surprised that the dexcom sensor passes right through it and into your skin.
    Do you notice a wide rang of difference between your meter and your cgm?
    Or, do you mostly have twinsies (within 5+-)?
    If it wasn’t for your blog and the Opsit link, I wouldn’t be getting the 14 days I get out of my dexcom sensors (YDMV).
    Thanks!

    07/24/13; 2:42 pm
  12. Can I suggest trying to put on the sensor before the shower? I find that nothing sticks after one, even if my skin is dry to the touch. Soap and moisturizer are like WD40 to medical adhesives….they make it slide right off.

    07/24/13; 7:48 pm
  13. Taylor Inman #

    I just pile on the tape…by the end of a 10-14 day stint I look like i was injured in a street fight. I don’t like to pull off my first..or second…or third layer because parts of it are still sticking. I like the trimming idea, didn’t think of that. Paper tape is nice on sensitive skin, but getting it to stick for more than a few days is a challenge :) Lots of tape is key…and then some more!

    07/24/13; 11:18 pm
  14. I love this post, thanks! I only started having rash and itching after your first posts about it, so I think it might be like placebo in reverse! I use the Dex 7 and a friend gives me sensors that she can’t use (since she has great insurance and i have none – I’m beyond grateful!). I’ve found that when my itchy rash starts, it’s just around the edges, and somehow if I peel up the edges where it itches and apply a healing salve, that solves it. And, it still will stay on for at least 2 weeks, often longer. I hope I’m not jinxing it by writing about it, as I’m about to put on a new one!

    I’ll keep your solution as a reference if it ever gets really bad. I hope someday I’ll have insurance again and might get the G4, though that adhesive sounds worse…

    07/25/13; 6:53 pm
  15. Amber #

    I am actually SOOOO glad I’m not the only one having a heck of a time keeping these things on! I ripped one off accidentally on the plane on my way to holidays in France only to realize I had only one extra…Boo hoo!

    My friends all laughed at me because I went to several pharmacies and played the “let me see your adhesives” miming game in French. I taped that sucker down like an athlete at the Olympics!

    It survived!!! (the baguettes are another story) but my skin didn’t love me:(

    07/25/13; 10:37 pm
  16. Zuzu #

    I can usually make it 6 or 7 days with just the dexcom adhesive, but like to extend it with the opsite, BUT, my skin gets rashy under the opsite. What’s another favorite people have used for extra stick?

    07/30/13; 10:52 pm
  17. JR #

    I’m SO SO happy that I found your post about this! I just got the sensor, and after 3 days, I got a HORRIBLE itchy rash that was bumpy and terrifying! I immediately turned to the internet to see if anyone else had this problem, and your article was the first thing to pop up! Just knowing that someone else had the same issue made me feel 100% better. I’ve started using some clear tape (I cannot remember the name right now) with more clear tape on top and that lasted for just around 7 days (the sensor went bad…not the tape), and I had little to no itching (yay!)

    Anyways, this is my long-winded way of saying thank you for sharing this with us out here in the internet world!

    07/30/13; 11:33 pm
  18. Teri Larsen #

    I have to say…so frustrated that 90% of my dexcom sensors don’t last the 7 days they are supposed to. I have to call them all the time to replace them. Until today they’ve been great about replacing them, but after my last one lasted exactly 1 1/2 hours they are giving my flack. Why do I have to purchase extra adhesive to hold them on??? I love having a CGM but if I’m already paying an A LOT of money for the sensors, why shouldn’t they last?Anyone else have this problem?

    10/23/13; 9:06 pm
  19. Hughville #

    Anyone try krazyglue under the dexcom adhesive?

    12/17/13; 9:45 pm
  20. aw #

    I 100% agree with Teri. I pay a lot for these sensors but all I do is fight to keep them on. I put one on today and within 15 minutes the adhesive was already peeling. I put on the opsite hoping to get 3 or 4 days. They fall off at the worst times and hurt like hell when they do. I have bruises from the sensor falling out. I have had zero problems with my pump site. Can this company really not put a little effort in finding a better adhesive. The tips on this blog are great, but for what we pay for these sensors shouldn’t the product perform to what they promise. Seems ridiculous to me that anyone should have to apply layers and layers of tape just to get something to stick for a week.

    03/6/14; 12:55 am
    • Toni #

      I agree Teri! It makes me mad that the adhesive is so flimsy!
      Why doesn’t this company use the adhesive that the pump
      Companies use!

      03/25/14; 4:42 am

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