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Dexcom Rash: Updated.

Frigging rash.  The issue first presented itself back in August 2012, leaving me scratching my head and itching my sensor sites for the next four years.

At first, I tackled the problem by trying a pile of different barrier tapes, but the only one that brought about any semblance of relief was the Toughpad.  For about a year, I used a Flovent inhaler (sprayed on my skin before applying the CGM sensor), but I was cautioned against it by my first dermatologist, who cited that the skin would become thinner and compromised after prolonged use.  For the last few years, I’ve used the Toughpad exclusively, and it’s held the rash at bay.

Sort of.

It’s never ever perfect.  I’m still itchy as eff sometimes when I’m in the midst of using a sensor (like right now, with my sensor on my right thigh and the skin around the Toughpad is bright red and I want to scratch it off until my nails break but the low alarm that went off two nights ago saved my ass entirely so I’m leaving the sensor on as long as I can stand it).  The rash doesn’t seem to be concentrated underneath the Toughpad as much as before, but now I appear to be allergic to the Opsite Flexifix tape.  Add that to the fact that I get skin irritation even if I put the new sensor next to any place where a sensor has even BEEN for the last month.

A week or two ago, I went to the dermatologist to further investigate my Dexcom rash and to hopefully find different ways to scratch that itch, so to speak.

The new dermatologist circled me like a shark, only maybe a shark in search of medical journal material.  “You’re having an allergic response to the medical device adhesive?”

“Yes.  Since 2012.”

He paused.  “So just don’t use that medical device?”

“Not an option.”  (Totally not an option, especially these days, when I can’t feel my low blood sugar symptoms and I don’t take action on my high blood sugar symptoms unless the CGM is alarming.  This is why I wear a CGM.  And while I’m taking care of two little kids, this is why I will continue to wear my CGM.)

“Okay …” said the dermatologist, looking at my arm and thighs again, assessing the skin damage.  “A Flovent inhaler, too?  You mentioned using that in the past?”

“Yes, but after being warned it would thin out my skin, I stopped.”

“Good call.  Listen, I think we can try two things:  a topical steroid cream, or a non-steroid topical cream.  I would like try the non-steroid one first, because the same skin-thinning issue would happen otherwise.”  He handed me a prescription.

We scheduled a follow up appointment and I was sent on my scratchy way.  The cream, it turns out, comes with a dozen different creepy warnings that have made me very reluctant to try it while breastfeeding my son, but I did put a little bit on my rash and, within the hour, my rash was on fire and the urge to itch was all consuming.  I’m not touching this stuff again until after I’m done breastfeeding, and even then I’ll be very conservative, in case I’m allergic to this shit, too.

I’m not sure what people are doing these days to manage their adhesive irritations, but I’m reaching the end of my available skin real estate.  Any advice out there? It’s been a very long few years of wearing the CGM 24/7 and I’ve just about run out of sites that aren’t already scaly and raw.  I hear rumors about a “sensitive” adhesive being released by the Dexcom team, and about certain elements being removed from the current adhesive makeup, but until those products are shipped to my house and not sending my skin into circus mode, I’m at an itchy loss.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. @alexwillie #

    From Lorraine, Caleb’s mom (a T1D superstar who is on the omnipod + Dexcom. I ran across them on TuDiabetes):

    cut as much of the allergen (adhesive) off as possible around the outside of the plastic base the sensor goes into and tape down the sensor in a t-shape using thin strips of flexifix.

    I can’t find the picture I have been using on facebook as a reply in the Dexcom group (might be worthwhile to follow this group… other people have good suggestions too, and I believe there’s another group about dexcom rashes specifically), but if I do I will reply to your tweet.

    I find this works well for me and stays put for about 10 days. I am a relatively active person and shower daily without sensor-sticking problems.

    01/11/17; 5:26 pm
  2. When I get a rash from my CGM tape, I use a product called Butt Paste (yes people that is its real name) or Gold Bond Powder (the one in the baby aisle) “without” menthol.
    I believe it’s the Zinc in both these products that have made my rashes literally gone by morning. Good luck!!

    01/11/17; 8:29 pm
  3. Andrea #

    I have been using a dexcom for 2 years and since then my already sensitive skin has been taken over by itchy eczema patches. I have tried numerous lotions and recently found something that works great – Exederm hydrating baby lotion. I rub the lotion up to the adhesive edges and it hasn’t compromised the sticking ability either. I purchase it on amazon for $5 a bottle.

    01/11/17; 8:36 pm
  4. I’ve been using IV prep pads. It has alcohol to clean the area and leaves a thin film on your skin. So the Dexcom or pump sticks to the film not your skin. It’s the only way I can wear a pump. For Dexcom it’s tricky-they said to not let the needle part go through the film because it isn’t “appreoved.” Of course I do it and it’s totally fine. A big box is on Amazon for around $10. SMITH & NEPHEW IV PREP ANTISEPTIC WIPES. Of course my insurance will only cover regular alcohol pads but oh well!

    01/11/17; 9:15 pm
  5. I do know this medication but as an injectable. It is sometimes used in the RA world to prevent post infusion or injection issues. I have never known this as a cream. Learn something new every day.

    01/11/17; 9:46 pm
  6. Kat #

    I am on a zofran pump right now due to hyperemesis gravidarum and have been dealing with my own unhappy skin issues from the pump sites. Skin Prep helps to some degree and creates a visible film on the skin before I insert the infusion set. Might be worth a try (if you haven’t already).

    PS. Unrelated, but I’m the one who left a comment awhile back about about having to science the shit out of having a baby … Our second science baby lands in ~60 days. : )

    01/12/17; 2:57 pm
  7. Lori #

    Hi Kerri
    You may remember my Dr was the inventor of the Flovent concept that has now been shared across the globe.
    I used it for at least 10 years on my abdomen with NO side effects whatsoever. Actually, I do have one…. my tummy, where I had used Flovent for 10 years no longer needs it at all for infusion set or dex. That is true for approximately 2 years. I just insert and no rash at all.
    It seems it had long term positive effect.
    I still keep it on hand just in case.
    And I had it bad!!!

    01/12/17; 4:24 pm
  8. Leah Moynihan #

    If the Flovent worked, I would opt to go back to it and rotate your sites as much as possible. Until/ unless you see thinning, this may be the best option. The tacrolimus also comes in a 0.03% strength, which might be a better place to start. I would also recommend seeing Dr Qureshi at University Dermatology in PVD. He’s a guru.

    01/12/17; 7:54 pm
    • I did see some weird sensitivity after several months of using the inhaler, which made me think about moving away from it. What secured that decision was the fact that my insurance stopped covering it, leaving me with a $175 payment each time.

      01/13/17; 8:52 am
  9. Christina #

    Have you tried duederm? We use it on micro premature babies. It would go under the adhesive. Opsite/tegaderm makes me itch like crazy too. I hope you fine a solution. That is SO HARD.

    01/14/17; 9:36 pm
    • I have tried that barrier but I had a reaction to that one, too. I’m not sure if it’s an allergy to the tapes now or if my skin is just so compromised after 4 years of rash wrangling, but everything seems to make it unhappy lately.

      01/16/17; 10:21 pm
  10. Devorah #

    There are other forms of inhalor steroids which may be cheaper. Qvar is similar to Flovent but much cheaper with my insurance.

    01/15/17; 5:25 am
  11. Landileigh Nelson #

    I have Cholernigic Uticaria. After years of trying EVERYTHING, I finally found 2 products that I interchange. SkinFix Eczema Balm, and First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. They both work for all my infusion sets and dexcom rashes.

    01/16/17; 1:41 am
  12. Amanda #

    You might want to try the Hollister Adapt Skin Protective Wipes. We use them in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to help with adhesives. They help with adhesion and form a barrier. Given our population, I would hope they would be gentle enough for your skin. I will warn you, it leaves a layer on the skin that might be tricky to remove. My thought was that perhaps this layer would work in your favor to keep the adhesives off your skin altogether. Given the nature of the residue, I would definitely test it out on a small area first.

    02/1/17; 7:59 pm
  13. Richard #

    Late to the party, but haven’t Dexcom recently released a new adhesive?

    I used to get a bad reaction too, but my last batch of sensors have been just perfect; no reaction at all!

    02/10/17; 6:34 pm

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