DexCom Adhesive Irritation & Allergy

caleb omnipodCaleb has been using the DexCom Seven Plus continuous glucose monitoring system since September of 2009. For quite a while he used it without any skin issue whatsoever. After about seven months of use (or at approximately the time that this picture of Caleb was taken, and yes, that is the only tie-in of this post to that picture, but I didn’t want the next picture to be the one that you are first greeted with for obvious reasons) things started to get a little tricky.

His skin started to react and frankly, it was nasty.

It was also heartbreaking. This tool which provided such valuable information, and comfort in otherwise stressful times of blindness, was working wonderfully but for this acid-like burning of Caleb’s skin.

dexcom

Caleb's skin after only a couple days of use

My heartfelt thanks to so many of you who gave me suggestions. I don’t think I can remember all of the things I’ve tried over the last six or so months.  Here is a list of many of them:

  • Wipe the skin really, really well with alcohol to clean away as much of your skin’s natural oils as possible
  • Use anti-bacterial soap
  • Apply Benedryl spray/gel/cream on the skin before placing the sensor on
  • Apply IV3000 or similar tape on the skin before placing the sensor on
  • Apply Bard’s Barrier Wipe
  • Apply Cavilon Barrier Wipe
  • Apply Skin Tac Wipe
  • Apply IV Prep
  • Apply Skin Prep
  • Any combination of the above applications
  • Place a cotton round under the sensor to absorb moisture
  • Dry the adhesive after showering/swimming with hair dryer

One time I placed IV3000 on his skin, then the sticky side of another piece of IV3000 to the sticky side of the DexCom sensor. It took quite a bit of coordination to then apply tape over the sensor with the inserter still attached to be able to adhere it to his body.  As desperate as we were for a solution, I was glad this technique did not work.

dexcom

Mark from DexCom adhesive days after use

We had some improvement at times. This picture shows Caleb’s arm a couple days after removing a sensor. You can clearly see the oval shape of the DexCom adhesive on his skin. The area was less irritated in this case – mostly a big dry patch. Whatever we did though, Caleb would inevitably end up scratching and complaining about the site and we would never get the full seven days out of a sensor.

I am hesitent, after so many unsuccessful attempts, to formally document that I do believe we have found a remedy to Caleb’s issue, for fear that the diabetes gods will strike me down for even daring to think that I might have something under control. Nevertheless, I feel behooved to share for those who may be going through the same torment that we have over the last half of a year.

The absolute, number one, critical element for Caleb is to ensure that his skin has been given adequate time to recover from the last site. His skin needs to be smooth without any dryness, otherwise he will complain of itching within hours, even minutes of putting a new sensor on.

Assuming we are dealing with healthy skin, I do the following:

  • Clean the area well with an alcohol wipe
  • Apple a barrier wipe on the area, careful to leave a small spot unbarriered for the insertion (I found when I wiped the entire area including the insertion, Caleb would get site infections)
  • Cut a small hole out of a piece of IV3000 (or Opsite Flexifix) for the insertion and apply to the site
  • Repeat the above step so that there are two layers of tape (this was the last piece of the puzzle that seemed to make all the difference)
  • Cut the DexCom adhesive down on all four sides to minimize the adhesive surface area
  • Soak the DexCom adhesive with a Skin Tac wipe then apply the adhesive to the two layers of tape, careful to place the insertion spot over the open area
  • After insertion, apply the Skin Tac wipe to the top of the adhesive to seal it
  • Dry the adhesive after getting it wet with a hairdryer whenever possible

I’m not sure which part of the above steps is actually resolving the issue or whether one or more of the steps could be elliminated; I’ve recenty skipped the barrier wipe and seem to have equally effective results. For all I know maybe he’s just simply gotten over it and none of the steps are doing a darn thing. If I muster the courage to apply the tape directly to his skin, I’ll report back.  I expect that won’t be for a while though. In the meantime, we’re enjoying the heavenliness of his smooth, itch-free skin that’s revealed when we remove a sensor that’s lived its expected lifetime.

Please be kind, diabetes gods. I don’t mean to taunt you. Rest assured, you are still keeping us on our toes and I know we will never be completely in control. :)

Here’s a nifty resource from OmniPod which includes some of the above plus additional adhesive tips and suggestions. It’s intended for OmniPod, but the ideas are transferrable to other products as well.

dexcom

DexCom sensor with the new application process

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59 thoughts on “DexCom Adhesive Irritation & Allergy

  1. O.M.G. You guys are ROCK STARS for going through ALL.OF.THAT for a Dexcom insertion Lo!!! I had no idea this is where you have ended up at. I am so glad that you found something that is working for you. I bow to you and Caleb. I am NOT worthy!!!

    Love ya!

  2. I’m so sorry that the sites were bothering Caleb’s skin. That’s exactly how my son’s butt looked after wearing the POD for 3 days. I have since started using Skin Tac wipes and they seem to do the trick BUT I do not plan on going near his butt any time soon either. I think the skin there is just tired of being used for things like this. I too have a supply closet of barrier products that I am ready and willing to try if the site problems arises again. Good luck and hopefully the D gods were busy playing golf or something as you typed this post.
    Leslie

  3. We began seeing this and fixed it by no longer cleaning the site with alcohol swabs before insertion. Now I just use soap and water and then let the area completely dry. I think the alcohol was drying Arden’s skin and creating the issue. Has not happened once since we switched methods. Glad you found a way to make it work for you!

    Always my best,
    Scott

    • Well that’s one I had not heard before! Could not be more simple, could it? I’m willing to give it a try! Thanks Scott.

    • I’ve wondered how the alcohol wipes contribute to this too. Using alcohol to remove the body oils can make the skin a bit angry. Yet, if you don’t get the oil off your pod/dex won’t stick. It’s another balancing act in our T1 world.

      • Yet I’ve always taken for granted that the alcohol wipe was necessary for cleanliness. I’m glad the point has been raised – it gives me something else to consider.

  4. Thanks for all this info Lorraine. We are about to start our own Dexcom journey and I know Addison has very sensitive skin. I have been worried about this happening. Now, if it does, I know where to turn to!!

  5. Thanks again, Lorraine for your tip. We use Tegaderm under the sensor and it seems to be working pretty well. We got 10 days out of our last sensor!

  6. Oh Lorraine….I feel your pain!! We had the exact same thing happen with the OmniPod!!! It looked like Cale had burns on his arms, legs, back, belly. And they took FOREVER to fade!! Cale hasn’t been on the pod for well over a year now! We tried so many things and nothing!! I, however, had not even thought to try Scott’s suggestion. Might be worth a shot. I still have a couple of pods laying around that we could try (without inserting). I have so wanted to get Cale a CGM, but am very afraid of how his skin will react with that. Hoping something changes for both our boys! Good luck and keep us updated on whatever else you try!!!

  7. This post is awesome! I worry so much about skin sensitivity issues, even though we’ve never had one. It’s just sticking all this stuff all over our kids…plus an occasional bandaid. ACK.

    My hubby does all the Dexcom insertions over here…I’m definitely sending him this post!

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

  8. Bless your hearts for “sticking” this out:( Gosh, Lo I dont know how you made it so many months but then again, I dont know the value of a CGM….yet:) We fly blind here:) I am so glad you are getting somewhere! Great job!!

  9. Kelsey wore the CGM for two weeks and was a MESS. However her break out’s were no where near the insertion point. But I think we will try your method next time though. I really wish I could afford to get both of my kids on CGM’s…it horribly expensive here.

  10. I had the exact same issues with the Dexcom and the Omnipod. The pods itched like crazy so I eventually had to give up the Omnipod. With the Dexcom, the rashes were still red but didn’t itch as much so I put up with it for longer. I have tried ALL the solutions that you mentioned plus whatever Omnipod suggested. The best one that worked for me was **using Betadine wipes for skin prep** before applying the sensor. But then you have to wait for it to dry, apply the sensor. I had a lot less problems when I used betadine for skin prep. Then you can use alcohol wipes if you’d like to clean up the “brownish mess” that the iodine-colored betadine leaves. You can also try using “Hibbacleanse”, suggested to me by the Omnipod folks. Comes in a blue-ish bottle.

  11. First I love how you can reply individually on the comments in this section …great thing!!

    next ouch ouch and ouch. That poor kid that 2nd picture looks soooo painful! but the 1st pic what a strong little guy you have…to cute!!

    Great tips and I hope that the Diabetes gods are nice to you too…good luck!!

  12. Okay, I’ve complained about welts from sensors, but they have been NOTHING like that picture of Caleb’s site. I need to shut my mouth and sit down. I can’t even imagine how painful those reactions are for him. Thank goodness you have found a way to put his sensor on and still leave his skin healthy – even if it is a huge hassle.

    Listen up, D-Gods, lay off my pal Caleb and his rockin’ mom!!!

    • I know it looks REALLY bad, and it was actually worse in person, but it never hurt him and by the next day the improvement was tremendous. It was very itchy to him though – which of course is a form of pain – but once the sensor was removed he had great relief. Thank you for the shout out to the D gods!!

  13. Woah. I’m so glad you’ve found something that is working. Going blind is so hard – especially after knowing the other side! Good grief — that is a LOT of work, though! But the picture of his poor skin – OUCH! We’ll jump through every hoop imaginable for our kiddos! Praying it works forever!

  14. Lorraine – I stand in awe of your ingenuity and stick-to-it-ive-ness. Hee hee hee. Bravo for you for coming up with a solution. I would have thrown in the towel. I applaud you my friend!

  15. Thanks for sharing the good, the bad, and (in this case) the UGLY sides of diabetes! Your detective work on solving this problem has also given me a few good ideas- thanks! Luckily we have no problem with the Dex adhesive, but the OmniPod adhesive is destroying every inch of viable real estate on our little guy’s body. We have tried many of the listed products. At this point, I wish Dexcom could send me a roll of whatever adhesive they use- it can stay on his skin for 11 days without a single problem. Arrggg! I will continue to try different combinations of things and hope for success.
    Have you found anything that effectively helps with the initial itchyness after site removal? Once those sites come off, our little Robby can’t stop scratching and he usually ends up tearing up the skin, making the healing process between sites even longer.
    Thanks again. When I saw this post, I almost cried…for two reasons. One, I was so heartbroken for these little people in our lives that have to endure so much, and secondly, the timing on this post was amazing. This problem with the adhesive and rashes consumes my thoughts all day long. It’s all I can think about, trying to figure out this problem. So thanks for giving me a few more ideas to try! You’re the best!

    • That white adhesive stuff is called Hypafix and you can get a roll of it. Expensive, but it lasts forever. I wind up scratching off my dex and have to cut another piece of adhesive to put over the one that is there. Itchy, but I try to persevere! There is also something I use on my special needs child’s gastrostomy site called Calmoseptine. It is available at a pharmacy from the pharmacist, but is not prescription. It is great….but it burns if the skin is open so don’t use it there. It’s like diaper rash cream.I haven’t tried it with my Dex site yet, but it calms my skin when I remove the site. God bless you , Mama! I think D Mama’s rock!
      Mousie, Type 1 grown up person

  16. so glad something is working finally! i used to get infections from my sites after 24 hours i’d have quarter size lumps beneath my skin, uk!

  17. Thank you for tempering the post with the fabulous muscle photo of Caleb;)

    OUCHIE!!!!!

    Loving the look of the site, Lorraine! Very fresh and springy!

  18. I’m so glad that the new process is working for Caleb. I also have irritation at the site, but not as severe. Hope that this process continues to work and he remains itch free!!

  19. Lorraine, I’m SO grateful for this post! Thank you! Jack’s skin is beginning to be irritated by the Dexcom sensor adhesive. I just pulled off a sensor and his arm looks a bit like Caleb’s above. I’m going to study this post and try your suggestions. Many, many thanks for such a helpful post!!!!

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  21. My son had the same issues and worse. He was tested with every tape, adhesive, iv 3000, alcohol etc at the universitry of Miami hospital. We tested him for what he used or ever used on our child. They did a Patch test and found he was allergic to most. Here are the ingrediants to the dexcom. It was provided by Dexcom. I wet to the following http://www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov and searched the ingrediants. The ingrediants can cause prolonged dermatitis which can take 6 months to heal as well as upper respitory issues and asthma like in my son. The only alternative we found was called Hypafix for the inset that wont leave horrible marks and reactions but have yet to use it with the Dexcom. I was also concerned that the FDA and CALIFORNIA HAD ISSUE WITH THE INGREDIANTS THAT CAN CAUSE CANCER, They dont tell you that when you get Dexcom. Nor did Dexcom ever help me when I called frantic on what was happening to our son and asking if the tape and indrediants could be the concern. Not until I called over and over did I finally get the email listed. Good luck everyone!
    Dear Jennifer:
    My supervisor gave me the following information to share with you regarding the composition of the Dexcom sensor pod adhesive:

    It is a pressure sensitive acrylic adhesive coated on top of a polyester spun lace fabric. The housing is attached with a cyanoacrylate glue from Loctite. Both are medical grade materials. There are no latex or bovine components.

    The name of the CAS (clinical administrative specialist) in your area is Lori Sandler, cell phone: 561-789-8098.

    I hope this information is helpful to you. Please contact me if you have any questions.

    Sincerely,
    Julie Schlitt
    DexCom Technical Support Representative

    Telephone: 877-339-2664

    Email: jschlitt@dexcom.com

    HOPE CALEB IS DOING BETTER;-) The Dexcom was a life line. I am axious without it as it has saved his life many times over.

  22. I can’t believe I found this post! I literally started to cry when I was directed here from comments on my blog post about this. I have THE EXACT SAME ISSUE!!! I thought that was a picture of my skin! I am going to try these and let you know! Thank you so so so much.

  23. My daughter has the same problem. I had to remove her last sensor after about 4 days. We’d also gone through several options. In our case, the extra layers of IV3000 actually seemed to make things worse. The sensor she has on now is on day 8 and so far no irritation. I used Bards Barrier first, the Dexcom sensor on top. It didn’t stick (was practically falling off the next morning), so now it’s pretty much taped on with medical tape – but at least it’s sticking and doesn’t seem to have a reaction.

  24. I have had so many issues with both Medtronic’s sensor (besides it being horribly inaccurate) and Dexcom’s sensors. I must have horrible allergic problems that I don;t even realize. I have called Dexcom’s support line numerous times and been rebuffed every time. I am told that they are not doctors and cannot prescribe anything!! AARRGGHH!!!! I have literally scratched my skin raw at times. I can never leave a sensor in the full amount of time and actually my entire abdomen is a mess of scarring. I have enjoyed the accuracy of the Dexcom and so I really don’t want to give it up. I was told to try skin prep, IV prep, Benadryl, even Flonase (prescription spray for allergies) and none has really worked very well. I have even tried Tegaderm and IV3000 with no good results. I am not a child–I am a grown woman 50 years old!! It is the most aggravating problem I have ever had!! I will try Betadine and see if it might help me. There are days when this disease just makes me want to cry and lately, that has been almost every day with regard to these skin issues and the CGM.

    • Oh Christie. I can very much relate to the frustration of this situation. You want this thing to work and a skin reaction gets in the way of enjoying the advantage of this technology. It’s always such a relief to see Caleb’s smooth skin underneath a sensor. It took us a while to find the right combination. I hope you find yours!

  25. Hi Lorraine! You sent me this link awhile back. We decided to give Dexcom another try today and am trying all your suggestions (though I think I will also incorporate cleaning the skin with mild soap and water, as I do think the alchohol might be contributing to the problem). Thanks for this, it was helpful to have someone else’s experience to follow. We’ll see how it goes!

  26. Lorraine, Thanks for this useful info. I am strongly considering but we have to see. i have heard both very good and positive reviews and some negative ones too. I think i at least would like to try it out though because I am very active (a thirteen year old girl who plats basketball) and knowing ahead of time what is going to happen would be super duper allie-uper awesome!!

  27. Lorraine,
    I want to thank you so much for this helpful information. I’m now 48 years old and having DM for 37 years I’ve been through just about everything. The Omnipod and the Dexcom sensor was a pleasant relief for me. After about a year I started getting the red allergic spots like your son. I thought it was just me having dry skin in the winter. I’m like everyone else. I use antibacterial soap and alcohol because the puncture holes are pretty puffy on day three when the pod comes out. I also try to keep the dressing part dry after bathing. I’m not sure why after so long I started having the redness though. I haven’t changed anything. I’ll check into the different wipes. I did have an allergy test done and only had an allergy to something found in shampoo’s , lotions, and baby wipes. Odd. I can see how it can become a huge issue for some. Take care and God bless.

  28. I’m glad many of you have found solutions for the rash, but was wondering if someone could help me with the extremely itchy, raised bumps that don’t seem to heal. I’ve been diabetic for 25 years, I’ve had an insulin pump for nearly nine years, and just started with the Dexcom about a month ago. When I remove a sensor it leaves a large raised welt and they aren’t going away. I’ve had the first one on my stomach from almost a month ago and it itches worse than a mosquito bite and the raised bump looks much worse than a bite. The bumps aren’t healing. Am I doing something wrong? Can the barriers discussed here help with the aftermath? I don’t have this problem on insertion sites after removing the infusion set (Cleo 90) for my pump. Any help would be appreciated.

  29. Thank you all for this Blog. It has been of great help to me. Dexcom will not acknowledge to this day their customers have an adhesive problem, The help desk employees play stupid about this situation making you think you are alone.
    I love the Dexcom system. Makes controlling my type one Diabetes is easy. After using dexcom sensors for three years the itching and welts started about February 2012. I will be trying your suggestions. The alcohol drying makes a lot of sense. My pharmacist suggested using a patch from 3M called Tegaderm patch. Expensive stuff. I put the patch on, then the Dexcom punching right through the patch. I am in day three of a seven day test with no problems yet. Last time I used the Dexcom on the skin I was scratching in less than eight hours. To heal the irritation and welts I am using a steroid prescribed by my Dermatologist. (Hypocortozone Valerate .02%)
    Bill Howard

    • Oh, Bill. This all sounds so familiar. It is so very frustrating. Caleb now only needs a single barrier wipe on his skin and then I soak the adhesive with a Skin Tak wipe. I’ve been able to eliminate applying the tape – that actually started to cause a reaction. Fingers crossed for both you and Caleb that whatever is working now, continues to do so!

      • Lorraine,
        Happy to hear Caleb is now comfortable with the adhesive fix.
        I have three questions for you.
        1. What is a barrier wipe and where do I get it?
        2. What is a Skin Tak wipe and where do I get it?
        3. In your previous posts you mentioned an item called IV3000 Tape?
        Can you tell me what and where?
        This is so cool to know I am, not alone with theses problems.
        Regards
        Bill

  30. Our son is 3, and has been using the Dexcom for 7 months when the allergy started. Just re-reading this and realized that a lot of these reactions are occurring at the 7-10 month mark. We tried the wipe barrier which decreased the irriation from 1-3 days tolerance. We have a ton of tegaderm patches that we will try next. We don’t have the IV 3000 so we figure we will try what we have. Thank you for your posts, hopefully the next model with have a more sensitive adhesive. BTW we aren’t irritated by the omnipod’s adhesive. So strange…

    • Hi Robin. Sorry you are seeing this too. It seems that Caleb’s issue has resolved. I still use barriers, but I don’t go through the extensive process we once did. We may be able to just apply the DexCom, but I’m not willing to take the chance! Good luck. I hope something works!

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  32. We’re facing fairly sudden sensitivity to dex :( My daughter is 8 and just started on dex in September. At first I blamed the skin tac liquid. blah blah blah. Last sensor was only on for 2 days before I had to pull it. Thanks for posting all your ideas and trials. Hopefully we’ll find something that works well for her soon.

    • I really am so sorry you are going through this, Angela. It is so very frustrating to have this amazing technology available only to be hindered by this adhesive issue. I hope something works! Caleb seemed to “get over” it. We are down to just soaking the adhesive with SkinTac and that’s enough. Good luck!

      • What’s your procedure for soaking it? Before you put it on him? After? Liquid skin tac or wipes? Thanks!

      • When I remove the plastic from the sensor and expose the adhesive, I take a SkinTac wipe and just rub it directly on the adhesive side to let it soak in, then I apply it to Caleb’s skin.

  33. I am researching how to make Dexcom adhesive last longer—your post is amazing! So many factors, things to try…it’s our first week (day 4) and the thing fell off. We had tried to hold it in place with first aid tape and band-aids. Not effective!

    • I see you’ve found the Flexifix tip – I hope that and the Skin Tac help. We cut the flexifix in little pieces and tape away and it’s always been helpful! Good luck and thanks for stopping by! ;)

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  35. I went through the same thing with my omnipod. I was fine for a few months and then developed a horrible adhesive allergy. My omnipod rep was amazing…we tried all the skin barriers and nothing worked very well. He finally got in touch with a mother who had the same issue and they found that using Fluocinonide 0.05% (corticosteroid cream) 24 hours before application and then again one hour before application worked. I was willing to try anything. It worked! I have been using this regimen for 3+ years, alternating between two sites and hardly ever have any redness or itching!

  36. Thank you so much for this information. I fell so bad for Caleb, I understand his pain. I jsut started reacting to the dexcom site the same as hs did and belive me – it is MISERABLE!!! thank you for this valuable info cause i wan tto use the meter cause it keeps my BS well controlled. I haven’t had any issues with the pod. I am going to try this technique tonight – here’s praying!!!

    • Good luck. I understand how heart-breaking this can be. Today, and for a while now, we soak the adhesive with Skin Tac and nothing else. His skin has stopped reacting in that horrid fashion (knock wood). As quickly as it came, it seemed to go.

  37. Wow, it was like seeing myself all over again. The exact same thing happened to me. I would get those horrible blisters after wearing my Dexcom. As you, I was heartbroken since I absolutely LOVE it. I tried everything I could think of and worked with my endocrinologist to come up with even more ideas, and nothing has helped. I thought I was the only one but am slightly relieved to know I’m not even though its horrible for anyone. I think I’ll try your routine and see if it works. Thanks and keep us posted if anything changes.

    • Oh I hope something works. I think Caleb may have evolved out of it or something. We’re down to just using Skin Tac on the adhesive now. Fingers crossed that you find something that works. It is truly heartbreaking to go through this. :(

    • Hi,
      I have the very same rash that starts within the first day of wearing the sensor. I have tried all of the suggested barrier wipes, tegaderms, sprays, etc. and found none work for me, the rash continues.
      Good news though! Recently, I found a solution, I bought the DuoDerm Spots on Amazon, they are an oval small shape that is the perfect size to cover the square platic sensor and still allow the dexcom tape to adhere to your skin. I use a hole punch to make a hole in the top 1/3rd of the DuoDerm (I try align the hole to match the hole you will see on the underside of the sensor) so that the sensor probe does not go through the DuoDerm and affect its accuracy.
      I spoke to the Research & Development person at Dexcom about this (I met him at a diabetes meeting) and he said it is most likely from the glue they use to adhere the dexcom adhesive patch to the sensor. He said they are looking into a different solution for this rash that many are dealing with (nice to know they are looking into this). The Omnipod is not having this rash issue and he said they do not use the same glue to adhere their tape to the pod….
      Good luck to you! I hope this helps.

  38. Lorraine,

    I just wanted you to know that I quit wearing the Dexcom 7 Plus because not only was the adhesive on the back of the patch horribly irritating, but the accuracy of it was not good enough. About 18 months ago, I had an insulin reaction (fairly severe) while driving. The Dexcom alerted me 10 minutes after I had pulled off to the side of the road to get glucose in and get over the reaction. Thankfully, my sister was in the car with me. It scared her out of her wits and made us both realize how much needed improvement. I went on the Dexcom G4 in January of 2014 and the adhesive STILL has as big a problem as it did 2 1/2 years ago. Unfortunately, Dexcom may have the same problem that Medtronic has had. They think they are the only company out there so they can ignore issues as readily as they want to. Well, one day there will be a death attributable to their product (or a serious reaction that will hospitalize someone) and they will be forced to acknowledge the drawbacks. I am still hoping for a solution to the absolutely annoying reaction so many thousands have had with Dexcom’s adhesive. Get a solution, Dexcom!!

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