One of the distinct minor tragedies of life with type 1 diabetes is when you lose a perfectly good CGM sensor just because the adhesive fails. This tech is as vital as it is expensive, and to lose days of continuous glucose monitoring just because a lousy piece of tape didn’t do its job is insult on top of injury.
If you’re in the middle of a race or a multi-day camping trip, a lost sensor can change from annoying to dangerous. As ASweetLife co-founder and committed marathoner Michael Aviad told me, “During a race, nothing scares me more than losing my CGM.” That fear is not a nice companion.
Summer is now on its way, which means sweat, not to mention swimming, sand, sunscreen, bug dope and so on, all natural enemies of sticky stuff. This is the season of failing tape, when the official adhesive begins to curl up and detach sometimes only days after application.
So, with some help from our friends at Skin Grip, we’ve prepared some advice on how to keep your sensor stuck on for the full 10 days (or even more).
The biggest mistake people make is not preparing their skin. If you just slap your sensor on willy-nilly whenever the previous one expires, you’re not setting yourself up for adhesive success.
- Clean skin is a must. Dirt or grease, even the imperceptible amounts that accumulate over the course of a normal day, are huge no-nos.
- Clean means no oils, lotions, or moisturizers – nothing will ruin the adhesion faster.
- It should go without saying, but hair and tape do not get along well. If your preferred site isn’t hairless, go ahead and trim or shave the skin.
- Use an alcohol wipe to conveniently sterilize your site. This will eliminate bacteria that can cause irritation (or even infection) under the sensor.
A truly clean (and hairless) site is a good start, but to really ensure a long-lasting bond, consider using an adhesive barrier wipe. This product goes directly onto your skin, and considerably increases the strength of the bond of any regular adhesive applied on top of it. Skin Tac is a popular brand that we can recommend.
Most importantly, your skin needs to be dry. If you’ve used an alcohol wipe or adhesive prep, let it air dry fully before you apply the sensor.
When you choose your sensor site, are you thinking about how secure it will stay?
While it’s obvious that you don’t want an errant door frame to scrape the sensor straight off your body, you should also consider the little bumps and tugs that the sensor endures, and the little twists and turns your body makes that loosen the adhesive. They can add up.
Dexcom, for example, officially recommends just one site for adults: the belly (and, for younger users, the upper buttocks). But the belly stretches and twists, and may not provide the best foundation for a secure attachment. Many CGM users prefer other locations, and have found the accuracy to be undiminished.
We recommend the back of the arm – not just the side of the arm, but truly in the back, where it is less likely to scrape against walls and such. The thigh is another good option, right in the front of the thigh, where it won’t likely bump against anything or bother you during sleep. These locations seem to provide good accuracy and also minimize the likelihood of knocks and bumps.
Apply an Adhesive Patch Over the Sensor
The final step to really guaranteeing that your sensor isn’t going to go anywhere is to add an additional layer of adhesive on top.
There are a number of generic products that serve this purpose fairly well. We’ve used both OpSite Flexfix and Tegaderm. They definitely help, but aren’t ideal. Because they haven’t been designed for CGM use, you have to cut them to the proper size, and then cut out a sensor-shaped hole in the middle, which can be awkward. Performance is good but not great, especially if swimming or in really sweaty conditions. The material doesn’t stretch and is not breathable, and as a result they don’t extend sensor attachment all that much. (They also tend to look like you slapped a rectangle of packing tape onto your body, which isn’t the look that we’d suggest going for.)
Ultimately, the best option is Skin Grip, a product designed for this exact purpose.
The Skin Grip patch is pre-cut into the correct shape – they have a different version for each of the CGM systems. It is simple to apply, is available in many colors, and it looks good. And the patch is a long-term fix. You can apply it as soon as you insert your sensor without worry that it will fail before the sensor does.
Skin Grip is rugged but breathable, like any good outdoor equipment should be, and will hold up to 10+ days of exercise and fun. It’s the best product to make sure that an unsteady sensor won’t hold you back this summer.
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Please visit Skin Grip for more information about their products.