Keeping continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensors stuck on properly can be something of a challenge. Showering, sweaty gym sessions, swimming and the general rough-and-tumble of daily life all conspire to help remove your costly CGM sensor from your body. But how best to keep them from working loose? Kinesio tape is a popular way of sticking down your CGM. It also comes in a wide selection of colours and patterns for those wishing to spice up their sensor. But is it any better than tape you might get from Boots for half the price?
CGM sensors consist of a fine sensor which is inserted just under the skin, and a larger transmitter above the skin. In the case of Dexcom G4 sensors, the whole device is about the size of a monkey nut, but unfortunately slightly more expensive. The sensor is stuck onto the skin with something a bit like Hypafix. Dexcom G4 sensors last seven days but sometimes they can work loose earlier than that. And if the device is dislodged before the seven days is up, this is £50 or so down the drain (this is either paid for by the patient or the NHS, but regardless of who pays, waste is still waste). Applying tape helps keep the sensor stuck to the skin, minimising wasted sensors.
I have rounded up the most popular Kinesio tapes and some cheaper alternatives, and put them through a side-by-side stick-off to see which ones perform the best, and what value for money they offer. The cheaper a tape is and the longer it lasts, the better value for money it is. Bonus points are awarded for cool colours or patterns.
(5cm x 5m roll)
|Boots zinc oxide tape||£3.99||Tan|
|K-Active||£14.99||Tan, light blue, black, pink|
|Leukotape K||£6.20||Tan, light blue, black, pink, red|
|Kinetic Tape||£3.70||Tan, light blue, black, pink|
|Levotape||£4.74||Tan, light blue, black, pink, dark blue, green, red, white|
|Rock Tape||£11.40||Light blue, black, pink, dark blue, violet, white, 6 patterns|
How they were tested
To make sure that all tapes underwent the same conditions, I wore all the tapes at the same time. No, I didn’t end up looking like a mummy. More like a patchwork quilt. I cut out squares of the tapes and stuck them to my skin, and then went about normal day-to-day activities until they eventually fell off. Normal day-to-day activities also included getting very strange looks when I was getting changed at the gym. Because the tape has to stick to areas of the original CGM sensor tape as well as the skin, I applied two pieces of each tape: one piece I stuck directly to my skin, and the other I stuck to a piece of Hypafix, which I then stuck to my skin. Hypafix is as close as I could get to sticking it to the CGM tape.
I prepared my skin by washing and drying thoroughly, then I applied a layer of Skin-Tac. This is a rosin-based solution which makes the skin slightly tacky and improves the adhesion of tape.
The photo below shows the tapes on test stuck to my skin. From left to right:
Hypafix, Boots zinc oxide, K-Active, Leukotape K, Kinetic Tape, Levotape, Rock Tape
Tip: let your partner know that you are doing this experiment in advance otherwise (s)he might think you have gone a bit weird.
So how did our tapes get on? There were a couple of anomalies as you will see – the large piece of Hypafix which had all the other bits of tape stuck to it fell of quite early on, but the smaller piece of Hypafix lasted the distance. Strange. Maybe the edge of the tape lifted and water got behind it? And the zinc oxide tape didn’t stick well to the Hypafix at all.
And the winner is…Leukotape K. It’s not all about how long a tape will stay put – price and selection of colours is also important. I find that the tan or white coloured tapes look a bit medically – if i’m by the pool or on the beach then I prefer to use one of the brightly coloured tapes. OK, so this is not in the spirit of #ShowMeYourPump, but it makes me feel more comfortable. If crazy patterns and colours is your thing then check out Rock Tape – it’s expensive but the patterns are cool.
Here’s the final run-down of tapes from the controlled test. The lifespan refers to the number of days before the piece of tape fixed to the skin fell off, and the value for money is the lifespan divided by the cost (the longer it lasts, or the cheaper it is, the better value for money it is).
|Leukotape K||17||⭐ ⭐ ⭐||Lasts well, good value, reasonable selection of colours.||⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐|
|Kinetic Tape||10||⭐ ⭐ ⭐||Reasonable value for money. Limited colours.||⭐ ⭐ ⭐|
|Rock Tape||13||⭐||Poor value for money but great selection of cool colours and patterns.||⭐ ⭐ ⭐|
|Levotape||10||⭐ ⭐||Good selection of colours. Not good value for money.||⭐ ⭐|
|Hypafix||12/23||⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐||Small piece affixed very well, large piece came off early on. Limited colour choice. Looks a bit medical. Best value for money.||⭐ ⭐|
|K-Active||16||⭐||Lasts well, but poor value.||⭐ ⭐|
|Boots zinc oxide tape||5||⭐||Doesn’t stick well to Hypafix. Available in any colour as long as it’s tan. Poor value for money.||⭐|
So what next?
I tried out a few tapes but since doing the experiment some fellow T1s have mentioned some other tapes to try – the Union Jack tape at the top of the page is H2O Rock Tape which not only looks very cool but also lasts a lot longer too. And I know some other T1s who have good success with other types of zinc oxide tape. I sense that a second experiment might be in order.
What’s your favourite tape for sticking down your CGM? Want me to test it side-by-side with the best ones here? Do your experiences completely contradict my experiment? Or do you have an even better solution?! I’d love to hear – let me know by posting a comment below!
Great article! I’ve been looking at tape to other over my.new Freestyle Libre sensor and this article was really helpful. I saw a few people like Opsite Flexifit tape so it’d be good to see that compared 🙂
Thanks Sam – will get some Opsite Flexifit and do a compare. Other people have mentioned H2O Rock Tape is good, as is doing a layer of zinc oxide followed by some fancy patterned tapes.
I use micropore … doesn’t work at all well, so I’d like to see how the other tapes measure up against it, please. I don’t often tape – Skin-tac alone works well – it’s at 21+ days that I sometimes need to tape.
I agree – I found micro pore wasn’t so good at all…it came off really quickly. I find the other tapes are much better. I have also found a few other techniques for applying tape so I might do some more experiments soon!