Sunday 24 November 2013

That time I got waaaay too excited about medical tape: 3M Nexcare Sensitive Skin Low Trauma Tape

My track run with medical tapes, or more precisely medical adhesives, has not been a good one. Prior to becoming ill this wasn't a huge problem. The odd Band-Aid would leave me a bit itchy but that was about it. Then Dysautonomia came on the scene and BAM, my body gave a big "Hell No!" to each and every medical adhesive I came across. Having a connective tissue issue has also not helped. Bodgy over-sensitive skin, that starts itching and breaking down when it's within 100m of an adhesive, has made life somewhat difficult. To add insult to injury, my every increasing ill health meant that medical adhesives became a common part of my life. IV's, surgeries, 24hr holter monitors, ECG dots, all become part and parcel of a life with complex chronic illness. And all require medical adhesives in some form or another.

Waking up from my venogram to find a Tegaderm stuck on my groin covering the incision into the femoral vein, made me want to weep. Even removing it as quickly as I could, I was left for weeks with a red, itchy and weeping groin of burning pain, all in the nice neat shape of the Tegaderm. I do believe this is about as far removed as you can possibly get from what Justin Timberlake had in mind when he was singing about "bringing sexy back."

Even the most hypoallergenic tapes and wound covers I've encountered in various hospitals, have ended with me red, rashy and weepy. Sometimes nursing and surgical staff believed me and went out of their way to at least try and find a less reactive alternative, but more often than not there was scoffing and a lack of belief which led to more red weepy rashes. Even a red arm band is no deterrent to many. I can't count how many times I have waved my red wrist or ankle band at medical staff who still insist that the tape, ECG dot, dressing they are about to use will be "fine". 

(This is the welting 2 weeks after 5 fun filled days in hospital)

It's a hard one. What can you do when you are fast asleep in theatre? You can hardly object. And at times you simply have to suck it up and endure the pain to keep a surgical wound covered to avoid infection. Although as I found out last year, those red weepy patches from the adhesive can also become infected and leave you mighty unwell. Or, when you need a holter monitor or ECG what can you do when you need to know what is going on with that pesky heart. Though I would say to all nursing staff, rubbing the skin with sand paper prior to putting on the ECG dots is one sure fire way to make my reaction even worse. Connection be damned, it's going to be bad enough without already inflamed skin thanks to taking an emery board to my chest.

(One of my scars courtesy of an ECG dot from my last 24 hour holter monitor)

So I've put up with burning and itching and scaring. The worst was perhaps my non-healing pacemaker incision which required continuous covering for 6wks. Crying as you put on or take off dressings, or watching as layers of your skin pull off like old sunburn, is not a fun past time.

(The adhesive burn pattern over my pacemaker incision was incredibly painful and many tears may have been shed. Though the alternative of leaving it exposed and risking infection in a wound that would lead straight to my heart, was not really an option I wanted to pursue.)

I did try testing to see if the local allergy dermatology clinic could find me some safe alternatives. 
(This was not a pleasant experience for either the itching and burning, 
or the week long non-bathing.)

And after two weeks of hell I was none the wiser. (After the first week they added another strip down my arm, just for shits and giggles.) Although I do now know I have an allergy to clove oil, a heap of chemicals I can't pronounce and most perfumes. All of this did not help me find safe dressings.

I do use a blue cohesive bandage where I can. This contains no adhesives and sticks to itself, and for those who need it, you can get latex free versions. It comes in a range of widths and colours and is available from a number of different companies. Brilliant stuff that my lovely phlebotomst, Jacqui, put me onto. It's the same tape they use on race horses. Me and a thoroughbred, equine super-athlete, the link is obvious, right?

(Works a treat for IV Saline)

The nurses who managed my weekly IV saline infusions were also clued up on this dressing and as you can see above it was used instead of the usual Tegaderm/tape combo to keep my cannula in place. And because it is elasticised they simply wrapped my arm with the same after the cannula was removed to provide the needed compression. I now have a stock of this bandage at home so I can take it to hospital or wherever I may need an IV these days.

*Every time I write Tegaderm, Spell Check wants to change it to, Megadeath. Somewhat appropriate I think!*

Having complained long and hard on Facebook, as you do, and lamenting that yet again I was a blistered and weepy mess, I was lucky enough to have an alternative tape suggested by one of my fabulous readers.

Their suggestion was 3M™ Kind Removal Silicone Tape 2770-1

So of course I searched high and low for this tape so I could test it. Which of course meant that I couldn't find it here in Australia unless I wanted to buy it in bulk. Now if it worked, like my blue cohesive bandage, I would stock pile the rolls. However if it didn't, 40+ rolls of useless blue tape mocking me from under my bathroom sink would not be the best use of my limited funds.

Luckily, my Facebook is filled with marvellous and generous people from all over the world and the lovely Jessi, who first suggested it, sent me a sample all the way from the U.S. of A. Thanks, Jessi.

So the testing began. I put a small piece on the inside of my lower arm with the aim to leave it on for 48hrs.

(Of course I forgot to use a pen with ink that doesn't give me a reaction. *facepalm* 
Luckily the redness did disappear after a few hours.)

24 hours in it was a tiny bit itchy but nothing to write home about. It did manage to mostly stay on after a shower, with only slight lifting on two of the corners. This was also after many hours of pre-open house cleaning and Great Dane slobber, so quite a feat.

And after 48hrs, well 57hrs really, as we had our open house, and time went by in a flurry of cleaning and praying to every deity known to man that someone would buy our house. And basically I forgot until I was about to hop into bed, which is a good sign when you think about it, the photo below shows the result.

So 57 hours later there is a tiny bit of redness but no itchiness or burning. Hallelujah! It didn't hurt to take off, didn't pull, and, most importantly didn't leave any residue.

(About 72 hours post-first putting it on.)

And today? Another day later there's a tiny amount of redness that you would only notice if you were looking for it, and most importantly, no welts, no weeping, no inflamed rash, no blisters, no itching or burning. No need for tinctures and creams. Woo Hoo! If I wasn't stuck in bed thanks to my post-open house malaise I would dance for joy. Though I may expend what little energy I have in doing some in bed, jazz hands and spirit fingers to celebrate.

So thank you Jessi. Thank you 3M. And thank you feeble brain and general apathy, that I didn't have the energy to turn on my computer camera and capture the abomination that is my bad in bed celebratory Voguing.

Now I'm off to bulk buy some tape.

Oh and if someone can suggest a waterproof wound dressing that works just as well, that would be fabulous.


I should probably add this is in no way a sponsored post. Just sharing something that worked for me and may help others who have the same issue. 

This is as close to dancing as I'm going to get today.


  1. AWESOME! I have adhesive allergies too, something that has gotten more and more severe as I've gotten older. This is a bummer, as I rely on strong pain killers to manage my pain from illness at this point, and that totally rules out the extended release pain patches. I have a pretty little scar from the time my rheumatologist insisted that we at least try, even though I warned her I was allergic. I plan on covering it up with a butterfly tattoo in the future.

    I'm glad to see this. Maybe I'll keep a roll in my purse along with my emergency cortisol shot, just in case I get carted into the hospital and need the tape. :)

    1. I showed my husband, and he was thoroughly impressed as well.

  2. I'm so excited! I'm getting this tomorrow. So tired of the tegaderm that holds my pain patch on leaving blisters behind... it's bad enough to have the stupid 3 inch rectangles from the patch, but the 6 inch rectangles from the bandage over it, that itches and burns lilke a chemical burn (because it is...) is RIDICULOUS... And I can't do oral pain meds so I have to live with the itchy squares all over me from the patch. At least we know where to stick them... the red squares stay for about 2 months each time, so we have a map of where the patch rotation is... LOL

  3. That is wonderful! My Grandmother suffered the same reactions to every adhesive known to man. I wish she'd found this stuff. Yay, 3M!

  4. Michelle! I want to print this out and shove it in the face of every doc, nurse and tech that has given me nothing but rolled-back eyes, "yea-rights" and "that's impossibles" every single time I tell them I have this problem.
    I just had surgery and the damn IV nurse gave such a hard time - she didn't believe I couldn't have her horrid sticky plastic crap on me - so she got someone else to do my IV!!
    I have so many pictured - like yours - showing the oozing, blistery, weepy reactions my skin has to certain adhesives - oh God - and an IV longer than 4 hours! eeeeech! Oddly, I can tolerate the Tegaderms - its the stuff the IV is made of my body hates. Just like "dissolvable stitches." They don't ever "dissolve" in me. I pick them out for years - literally, as my body shoves them to the surface in a "what the HELL is THIS" maneuver.
    The new 3M wrap - its called "coumadin tape" around here in the Northeast US (b/c old folks that that Coumadin have very fragile skin) Is gaining popularity with the phlebotomists/vampires....and, it comes in MANY fancy colors as well.

    Curious, has a doc ever given this condition a name? And, is it connected to our dysautonomia?
    I'd love to have something for my docs to look up next time I get the "you're full of shit." look from them.

    You are amazing Michelle. Hugs from the Boston area of the USofA.

  5. That is excellent. I will have to try this also.

  6. I learned this when I used the Nicoderm patch. If you put a little maalox on the red area and let it dry before a shower it takes the burn down. I know it sounds crazy but it works for me with all the burns like that and I get them too. Right after you take it off get a little on your finger and pat it on the burn and let it dry, then shower.

  7. It sounds like you have "Mast Cell Activation Syndrome" (MCAS) it's been linked with Ehlers-Danlos/hypermobility syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS (Dysautonomia)) there are med and naturals called "Mast Cell stabilizers" hope it helps...


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