Solving adhesive irritation for insulin pumps & cgms
Updated: Jan 7
*I'm not a doctor. Don't take this blog as medical advice, obviously. Site irritation can lead to some gnarly infections, so be sure that you're working with a medical professional if you need support. It's no doubt that any amount of t1d tech is an immense privilege to have. In my experience, they have up-leveled my t1d care tremendously. But that doesn't mean they are free of problems and annoyances-- which can make me debate sometimes if it's even worth the price.
I sometimes attribute my 15 years of no tech to simply not wanting to deal with any of the side effects, like battling insurance companies, adhesive rashes, malfunctioning batteries, and the list goes on and on. There have definitely been days when I have felt that my tech is working against me. Never a good way to feel, considering my life depends on these little machines.
This blog post is all about the dreaded adhesive rash. It seems like every time I open instagram I see another person posting about rashes from a variety of cgms and pumps. And let me be the first to say that no amount of perspective change, meditation, or nutrition is going to solve an adhesive rash. They suck and they are hard to get ride of-- but not impossible.
Throughout my treacherous adhesive rash battle over the last 6 months, I've gathered so much good insights about what both my endo/educator and the DOC have recommended. It's so important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. So hopefully this list can serve as a starting point to see what works for you! If I've missed something that you've tried before, let me know in the comments or DM me on instagram!
Adhesive Barriers These are essentially something that go between the adhesive and your skin, designed to lessen the irritation or make the adhesive stronger. The most popular brand that I see people using is Skin-tac, which comes in wipes or a bottle. It personally made my rash even worse, but I know that it works for a lot of people. People have also suggested Cavilon spray as having successful outcomes.
Allergy Sprays When I was having dexcom adhesive irritation last year, this worked wonders for me. Personally, I used Flonase. Yes, the stuff that you squirt up your nose. But instead, you apply it on your skin before applying the adhesive and after cleaning the site. Make sure it completely dries!
Moisturizer For less intense rashes, there have been recommendations that simply using regular moisturizer on your skin can help. When skin gets too dry, that can be an easier way for irritation to occur. It's a pretty simple concept: put lotion on everyday, especially in the places where you will apply sites! But make sure not to use moisturizer right before applying your adhesive, or the adhesive won't stick as well!
Change your site location At the beginning of my adhesive challenge with Omnipod, the rashes were only occurring when the sites were on my stomach. This luckily was solved by simply changing my pump site to a less irritable area, like my arms, back, and thighs. However, eventually the rashes began occurring everywhere. But simply changing to a new site location may help with irritation.
Steroid Cream This was the winner for me! I got a tube of hydrocortisone cream from target (1%) recommended by my endo. The night before my site change, I apply the cream liberally to where I will put on the site. I let it soak in overnight. Then, I prep the site with alcohol swab, and apply just a bit more and let it soak in and completely dry (about 1 hour) before changing my site. This works wonders for me. I also apply a bit of the cream after the site comes off, even though I don't have irritation anymore.
Under-tape Okay so that's not the official name but it's what I call them haha. These are basically another more gentle adhesive that you put underneath your pump/cgm adhesive that helps protect your skin. You can find it here. I tried the tegaderm with no success, but I do know people who this works well for! Be sure to cut a small hole (a hole-puncher works great) so that the needle can be inserted. I personally found that it came off too easily with my running and I got irritation under the tegaderm too, but def worth a try.
Try MDI/ another pump I hate to say it, but sometimes the easiest solve to irritation is try a new adhesive. That could mean switching brands or going off it all together and back to shots. Obviously not ideal, especially if you picked your brand/cgm/pump for a specific reason, but at the peak of my irritation I was so ready to call it quits with Omnipod. I was luckily able to find something that worked, but I know that not everyone is so fortunate.
I'm sure that there are SO many more to try, but these were by far the top recommendations from the diabetic community and my endo and educator! I hope that one of these works for you!! If the pump/cgm is something you want to be on, there is a way to make it work, It just may require some prep or adaptations. Be easy on yourself with irritation too, it can be frustrating to try many things and not have them work. Stay the course, keep your eye on the bigger picture, and remember to give your body some love <3.