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Dexcom Rash.

The itch started back in July 2012, when I pulled off a Dexcom sensor and saw a prickly, hive-ish rash underneath where the sensor and transmitter had been placed.  Blaming it on the summer heat and the recycled, dry air of airplane cabins, I figured it was a one-time thing and I’d be sorted out on the following sensor placement.

Which ended up being an “oh hell no – here’s a big, fat rash from the adhesive” experience instead.  I don’t know what changed (the adhesive? my body’s chemistry? my skin sloughed off overnight and was replaced by Super Sensitive Skin?), but I do know that I need to take some extra precautions to this day in order to comfortably wear my Dexcom sensor.

A search phrase that leads folks to SUM is often “Dexcom rash,” so I wanted to make sure that information was easily findable.  Not being able to wear the Dexcom due to adhesive reaction/allergy was frustrating, so if this information can help make life easier for PWD who want CGM data, I’m all in.

Here is some decidedly NON-MEDICAL, ANECDOTAL (talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medical regimen, please and thank you) solutions aimed at avoiding the Dexcom rash.

I’ve used a few different methods to help keep the Dexcom stuck, or to avoid the rash, but the regimen that has been tried-and-true and actually working for the last year and a half is this:

  • After showering, make sure the skin is completely dry.
  • In the colder months, when the air is dry and the heat in the house makes my skin particularly sensitive, I spray a blast or two of steroid inhaler on my skin where the sensor is to be placed.  This is a method I learned about from a reader, and discussed with my endocrinologist before trying.  She thought I was bananas, but she gave me the go-ahead anyway.
  • After applying the inhaler blast (but in mild weather, without applying it), I placed a Johnson & Johnson Tough Pad against my skin.  (It’s like a thick, gel-ish bandaid.)
  • I stick the Dexcom sensor over the Tough Pad (so that none of the sensor adhesive is touching my skin) and insert the sensor straight through the Tough Pad.
  • Then it’s business as usual – stick the transmitter in and start up the receiver!

Usually I can get the recommended seven days without having any kind of skin flare up, and when the sensor starts to peel away prematurely, I stick some Opsite Flexifix tape onto the loose bits to keep things stuck.

And that’s it.  It’s not medical advice, but it is a way to bypass the potential rash and to continue use of a medical device I rely on to help keep me safe.  I hate itching … unless it’s that advocacy itch.

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23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tim Steinert #

    The other aspect the is difficult for me to handle (being a dude) is the little tiny hairs on my stomach that don’t feel so little or tiny at 4 in the morning and my sensor needs replacing. Does anyone have something they do for that. Nair?

    Removing that Flexifix tape with any hair on the area involves patience and a pair of sharp scissors!

    06/25/14; 11:55 am
  2. John #

    Kerri, you did this one for me, didn’t you?!?! 🙂 I did a Dexcom Rash Adhesive search over the weekend, because I knew I had read about some solutions somewhere. There was a Glu user having major Dexcom adhesive issues, so I wanted to help. I’ll send her this latest blog, as well. I feel bad for you folks with sensitive skin, but glad this is working for you.

    06/25/14; 11:41 pm
  3. Jill #

    Thanks so much Kerri! This post is what drew me to your blog in the first place (Thanks Google!), and I have been following for months now. I’ve started using the same approach (minus the inhaler, because I live in TX and it’s rarely cold) for my Dexcom. It has helped the rash tremendously. However, the gel/glue/adhesive in the tough pad begins to break down right around the time I am re-setting my sensor (Day 7). The gel – once it is breaking down, or what appears like melting, causes an even worse irritation than the dexcom adhesive.

    Has anyone else experienced this? A quick fix would be to just pull it off right at 7 days before the tough pad starts breaking down. However, being delightfully frugal – I’d love getting a few more days out of it without totally destroying my skin. Thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask if anyone had other tips.

    08/20/14; 4:27 pm
  4. Gina #

    I never had sensitive skin, but about a month & a half after starting my Dexcom CGM, I developed the Dexcom rash. I tried the J&J Tough pad and it worked the first time. Second time I got the same (oval) rash under the square Tough pad. Now I rotate between the Tough Pad, and a large Curad Bandage – I think it’s 2 1/2 x 2 3/4 (I had read somewhere that Curad uses a different adhesive than most other bandages.) I have to cut down the Dexcom sensor pad just a little but it works – so far. I also apply Skin Prep before the bandage which seems to help it adhere longer than an “average” bandage. I saw an Allergist / Immunologist this week to see what suggestions they might have. (They didn’t have any.) But when I mentioned the asthma inhaler as I’ve read online, I was given a sample & a prescription. So I’ll be trying that tonight.

    08/23/14; 10:31 am
    • Christie #

      Gina–Have you seen any difference yet? I have struggled with adhesive issues on both the Medtronic sensor (years ago) and now the Dexcom. Have tried just about every suggestion I can find on the topic but to no avail. I, like you, saw a difference the fist time I tried a tough pad but after that, back to the same old problems of extreme sensitivity. I will try the Curad bandage. Keep us informed about whether or not you see a difference. Thanks.

      08/27/14; 4:49 pm
  5. Cynthia #

    Mepore Film works really great on the Dex. I too had allergic reaction to the tape. This fits snug like a second skin. Hey Kerri thanks for all you do I do not feel so alone in all this thanks to you.

    03/13/15; 1:41 pm
  6. Chiara #

    Kerry hello, I hope you read and answer me soon … thanks to you I was able to find the solution for allergy DexCom my daughter Mia, 4 years. The only thing that worries me now is the very management of the sea …. how do you cover when you shower? it says that it is waterproof but comes off to us all !! so we have to cover it with another patch huge waterproof, but when I remove the leaves whole red leather !! I hope you can help me ..thanks !! excuse the language but Italian Chiara 🙂

    05/5/15; 6:29 pm
  7. Joe #

    Thank you for sharing! I’ve been having a heck of a time trying different ways to prevent the skin irritation from wearing the sensor. I wore one for 6 months without an issue but out of the blue, my skin is terribly red, sore and irritated. I guess I’m not the only one. I appreciate you sharing what helped you. Here’s hoping!

    11/16/15; 2:48 am
  8. Lori Zustiak #

    Do you have to cut a hole in the tough pad where the needle inserts the sensor or do you put the sensor right thru it? I have tried IV3000 and skinTac and a combination of both but still have major issues. I can last maybe 3 days but the rash lasts for weeks it’s just not worth it.

    11/16/15; 9:57 pm
  9. Vanessa #

    Same happened to me recently. I started wearing my CGM and after a few months, started getting rashes like you described. My doctor (also has T1D, also uses Dexcom) gave a couple things to try. 3M Tegaderm transparent film and said to just insert right through it and Medline Sureprep wipes to prep my skin before application. I’m going to try your method too and see which works best.


    01/23/16; 7:26 pm
  10. Ashley Hartshorn #

    Hi Everyone! I just wanted to share with you a little about our story and how we FINALLY overcame that dreaded Dexcom rash!!

    Our son Leighton was diagnosed as a T1D last January at the ripe old age of 9 months. AWFUL. It was, by far the scariest experience of our lives, and we are thankful that after going into DKA with a BG of 404, the local children’s hospital (A.I. duPont) was able to bring our precious son “back to life.” Anyway, Leighton has since been on the Animas Ping pump (changed every other day) and the Dexcom G4 system which has been bittersweet for our family. While it is nice to have a general idea of his BG at all times with the CGM, it has also caused a lot of heartache for my husband and I, mostly because of the HORRENDOUS RED, BLOODY RASH IT HAS CAUSED ON OUR SON’S PERFECT, NEW SKIN. The adhesive from the Dexcom was causing our son such pain and skin irritation that he would even scratch it in his sleep and it would often times bleed and cause him to cry. It was absolutely heartbreaking for us and we looked to our endocrine team for any sort of answer…with no luck, at first. After coming online and reading what other parents had written about their experiences with Dexcom, my husband and I decided that we should ask the team to back our decision to try a “combo therapy” based on what we had seen work for different families of CGM patients. Well, I am proud to say that FINALLY, we have found the “holy grail” of CGM rash prevention (at least for now and for our son’s young, super-sensitive skin) and we could not be happier!! Please forgive the rhetoric and excessive use of capitalization in this post, but I am assuming that all of you have experienced the frustration and heart-wrenching pain associated with watching someone you love (or yourself) deal with the pain of this incessant rash. Below is the step by step technique my husband and I use to ensure that our son does not get that dreaded rash, and I am hopeful and prayerful that this technique can help at least one of you (if not all) in your quest to conquer this rash!

    -Soak a large cotton ball in isopropyl alcohol and thoroughly clean the area (even outside the area where the patch will adhere…I mean we pretty much wipe the alcohol all over the entire side of his body where the patch will go, just to make sure there are no oils/impurities which might hinder the adhesion)
    -Let the alcohol air dry (you will see there are no more “shiny spots” on the skin once it dries.)
    -After this, we apply several sprays from a corticosteroid inhaler (yes, an inhaler…it helps to create an additional barrier over the skin prior to insertion and has been the most important addition we have found to help prevent the rash)all over the area and make sure it is completely covered where we will be placing the patch. The type inhaler we use is called Qvar 40mcg (beclomethasone dipropionate HFA, 40mcg) and that is just one of the brands available at the pharmacy when your doctor prescribes a corticosteroid inhaler for you to use. The brand hasn’t seemed to matter, however, so don’t worry too much about that. The key for us was that we had to get this prescription from our pediatrician rather than the endocrinologist because they are not authorized (at least not in Delaware) to write Rx’s for medicine that is not historically known as a “diabetes medication”, so we had to get an Rx from our primary care physician…not a problem, just had to ask.
    -We wait about 1 minute, then apply a Duo Derm patch that has been pre-cut with a small circle the size of the Dexcom insertion point to make sure the CGM enters the skin properly. The best way we have found to do this and ensure a complete barrier against the Dexcom adhesive touching the skin is to take the Duo Derm out of the packaging, and place the Dexcom sensor over it, making sure to place it diagonally right across the middle of the patch, the only way the whole thing will fit. I then take 2 fine-point black sharpie markers to trace a circle on the patch,(one to hold in place on the patch, the other to trace around the end of the marker to make the correct size circle) right where the Dexcom will enter the skin and then fold the patch in half and cut the circle out carefully.
    -We then apply about 2 more “sprays” of the inhaler directly over the hole where the open skin is exposed and allow that to dry for about 30 seconds.
    -We remove the white paper from the Dexcom sensor adhesive and place the circle (where the sensor goes into the skin) DIRECTLY over the hole that I cut. We have not attempted insertion through the patch, and have found that as long as we use that extra spray or 2 of inhaler, there seems to be little to no irritation in that small circular spot…without that extra spray from the inhaler, however, we did still see some irritation, so make sure you do not miss this step!
    -I insert the sensor, place the transmitter (little gray piece that clips in) on top and remove that small, plastic piece. We then apply IV Prep wipes all around the top, white area where the adhesive from the Dexcom is, so that when we apply the clear Tegaderm patches, they will stick for quite awhile.
    -As aforementioned, we use Tegaderm patches on the top to ensure that the Dexcom stays in place for as long as possible (longest we have gotten from one sensor is a week) and I pre-cut those, as well, so that they are surrounding the Dexcom, but not covering any part of the transmitter (grey part). I fold 2 of the Tegaderm patches in half, and cut a half-rectangle shape in each and place one vertically around the Dexcom, the other horizontally. This may seem like overkill to some, but it really does wonders to keep that sensor in place through bathing every night and general toddler activity.

    That’s it! Haha…I realize it might seem like a lot of work, and it kind of is at first, but it is MORE THAN WORTH IT when you take that patch off after a week of wear and there is no crazy, itchy, bloody red spot for them to scratch and cry about. This system has been a God send for my husband and I and there is nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment you get when you take it off and their skin is hardly irritated, if at all.

    11/29/16; 2:11 pm

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