An itchy rash is never comfortable. There are many different causes for itchy rashes, and one may be the brace that you are using!
In the below article we will be discussing;
- Why does an itchy rash occur from a knee brace?
- The effects of heat rash from knee supports
- How to treat neoprene rash
- How to care for your brace
- Allergic reactions to neoprene
- When to seek help for an itchy rash
- Will a rash go away on its own?
Why do I get an itchy rash with my knee brace?
There are several reasons that you may experience an itchy rash under your knee brace. All of these issues can be rectified easily once the problem is identified.
The first is the obvious allergic reaction. This is caused by an allergy to neoprene, the most common material in high-quality knee braces.
This can be solved by putting a layer between your skin and the knee brace. Some effective solutions include placing a sock between the brace and knee. This can also help to prevent the brace from sliding, which is also a common reason for irritation under a knee brace.
Another issue could be that the brace has not been cleaned regularly or effectively. When the brace gets dirty or harbours bacteria then this can cause a rash or even infection.
The solution to this is using an anti-bacterial wash on the affected area and wash the brace every 3 to 5 days if worn daily, or every week if it is worn less regularly.
More detailed instructions for washing your brace can be found below.
Chafing can also cause a rash beneath your knee brace. Again you should use a layer between your leg and the brace to provide a barrier and also keep the brace from sliding. When the brace is moving during use it will cause chafing.
Ensure that the brace is tight enough to stay stable during wear, and make sure that you get the right fit when you make your purchase.
Some anti-chafing agents that are beneficial for such issues are highlighted below, from natural products like coconut oil to medicated creams.
Finally, heat rash can also result in a rash. Allowing the proper ventilation for your knee by removing the brace when possible can help to reduce the symptoms of heat rash.
The above are all common problems, all of which may result in an itchy rash beneath your knee brace.
Heat Rash from Knee Supports
Heat rash is a very common issue among those of us who use knee braces. It can take the form of small red bumps or rashes that commonly occur behind the knee or on top of the knee, where sweat and heat congregate.
It is sometimes not enough to keep the knee brace dry and provide ventilation by removing the brace when possible.
When these simple remedies do not help then you will need to resort to other methods. Generally, anything that works for problems such as nappy rash can be effective in treating heat rash beneath a knee brace.
This means that talcum powder can be used before you put on your knee brace. This helps to keep the area dry, absorbing sweat during the day, and also avoids chafing.
Anything that will keep the knee dry and sweat-free will help to reduce heat rash. This combination is the main cause of heat rash under your brace.
If you follow the above tips to avoid and treat your rash then you will find that during the period you are required to wear your knee brace you are more comfortable and will avoid an itchy rash.
How do you treat neoprene rash?
There are several steps in treating a neoprene rash caused by a knee brace.
Step 1: Shower with an anti-bacterial agent as soon as possible.
A wash with the active ingredient chlorhexidine, such as Hibiclens, can be purchased at your local pharmacy over the counter.
It effectively kills bacteria which includes Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause ‘staph’ infections on the skin.
You should use something like a loofah to scrub the wash over the body as it is slightly abrasive. Ensure that you get behind the knee as this is the perfect spot for the bacteria to collect.
You should use this regularly for 2 to 3 weeks to ensure that the bacterial infection has subsided.
Step 2: Apply anti-bacterial cream to the affected area
There are a few different creams that you can use on the affected area. They include Bactroban, with the active ingredient mupirocin, a topical ointment that is used on the skin. It helps to kill bacteria and also treat skin infections.
Start by applying a generous amount to the affected area with a medical-grade dressing to cover. One that is waterproof, breathable and adhesive is perfect for the application.
Step 3: Clean your brace
The main cause of neoprene rash and skin infection is bacteria, so your brace must be thoroughly cleaned regularly to ensure the bacteria will not colonize within the brace.
Rinse the brace in a mix of Hibiclens and water, 1 part in 300. This will act to kill the bacteria. Leave to air and do not use it again until you are completely sure that it is dry.
Your knee brace should be stored in a cool, dry place when not in use.
This will help: Instructions for washing a knee brace correctly
Step 4: Use an anti-chaffing agent
Some athletes use coconut oil as an anti-chaffing agent. It is cheap, odorless, natural and easy to acquire as it can be found in almost any store.
To create your own anti-chaffing cream you can mix it with 1-2 drops of tea tree oil for the best results as it adds an antimicrobial boost.
It can prevent chaffing, burning and redness that can be caused by neoprene and inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Petroleum based products like Vaseline should be avoided as they will degrade the neoprene of the brace over time.
Care for your brace
Properly caring for your knee brace is important for two main reasons. Not only does it ensure that the brace is kept clean and hygienic, but it will also allow the brace to last much longer.
As a knee brace is worn directly against the skin it is necessary to cleanse frequently.
The brace can be cleaned easily and effectively using a washcloth and mild, soapy water. If the brace contains removable pads then they should be hand-washed with a mild detergent, rinsed thoroughly and air-dried.
If you can obtain saddle soap this can be used on any portion of the brace that may be made of leather.
Before you wear the brace again you need to ensure that all soap residue is removed and the brace is completely dry. If there is any dampness or soap still on the brace this may cause irritation and even a rash.
There are a few methods you can perform at home to dry your brace effectively. Firstly, you can use a hairdryer on the cool setting to dry your brace. This should dry your brace quickly and easily.
Air drying on a clothesline outdoors is also effective but will take significantly longer.
If the brace has been exposed to saltwater then it will need to be rinsed thoroughly. Saltwater can have detrimental effects on the materials of the brace and it can also contribute to irritation.
The brace should not be left anywhere it could be exposed to extreme temperatures. This includes places like the inside of your car on a hot, sunny day.
There are a few things that will need to be checked frequently to ensure your brace stays in the best condition and does not need to be replaced often.
Check occasionally for signs of wear. If you spot any repairs that will be needed soon you can make an appointment to rectify these issues.
If you find that any hinges start to squeak then you can use some dry lubricant. Examples of lubricants that will neither damage the brace nor cause any additional problems include Brace Eze, Teflon, silicone spray, or PAM.
All of the above tips on how to care for your brace are essential to keep your brace in the best condition for the long term.
Frequently asked questions
Could I be allergic to Neoprene?
An allergic reaction to neoprene is generally due to certain accelerants used in the creation of this kind of man-made material.
It is down to the manufacture and may be a product of the use of compounds such as mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT) or thiourea compounds.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction could include itching, skin eruptions, swelling, and haemorrhages into the skin.
If any of these are experienced then you should cease use of the current brace immediately and perhaps try a different brand. If the reaction is severe then you should also seek medical attention.
When should I be worried about an itchy rash?
It is always best to deal with an itchy rash as soon as you can. This can avoid any further complications and it could be the result of an allergic reaction.
Generally, a less severe itchy rash will go away in under a month, but if it lasts longer than this then you should certainly consult your doctor to see if there are any underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Will rash go away on its own?
An itchy rash will generally go away on its own within a month if it is not severe.
However, if it is the result of an irritant or bacteria then continued exposure to the root cause will end up making the rash last for longer.
The best cause of action is to remove anything that may be exacerbating the rash, such as a support or brace, and using an over-the-counter medication to clear it up as soon as possible.