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Cast Care

What is a cast?

It's a hard covering the doctor puts over your leg/arm to keep the broken bone in place so it can heal properly.

How long will I have to wear a cast?

It's different for each person. Your doctor will tell you how long you'll have to wear the cast. Most people wear a cast for six to eight weeks.

What is a cast made of?

Casts are usually made of plaster or fiberglass. First, we'll put a thin "sock" on your arm/leg. Then we'll get the plaster or fiberglass bandages wet and wrap them over the "sock."

Plaster casts can never get wet because the plaster will "melt." Fiberglass casts shouldn't get wet, but if it does, it can be dried.

Your cast is made of _____________________________________________

Cast care

Keep your plaster cast dry at all times, or it will "melt." If it gets wet, it may soften or crack and lose its proper position. (If you have a fiberglass cast, keep it as clean and dry as possible.)

  • If your cast gets dirty, you can clean it with a damp (not wet) cloth. Then, keep the area uncovered until it's completely dry. To help dry the cast, you may use a hand-held dryer on a cool setting (never use the hot settings because it might burn you).
  • If your cast starts to smell bad, rub a little bit of dry baking soda into the soiled areas.
  • Check daily to be sure the cast is not too tight or too loose. If you feel tightness, pain, tingling, numbness, or you can't move your toes/fingers, or if there is swelling, elevate your leg/arm on a pillow for one hour. If you don't feel better, call your doctor. A cast that is too tight could cut off the blood supply or damage nerves.
  • The fingers/toes on the arm/leg with the cast should stay pink and feel warm, like on the fingers or toes on the other side. Call your doctor if your fingers/toes become swollen, cold, pale, or blue, or if you can't move them.
  • Never put anything into the cast or play with small objects like coins and toys that could fall down into the cast. Objects like coat hangers and pencils can break the skin and cause infection. If this happens and you can't remove the item with your fingers, call your doctor immediately.
  • Never stuff cotton or toilet tissue under the edges of the cast — it may decrease blood circulation.
  • Never trim or cut the length of the cast.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about physical activity carefully. Don't let your child play in dirt or sand.

Skin care/bathing
  • Closely check your skin frequently to make sure there's no irritation. Inspect the skin at the edges of the cast at least daily. If there are any reddened areas, change your position so the pressure is removed. If an area still looks reddened despite a change in position, notify your doctor.
  • If your skin feels itchy, rub the skin around the cast edges with your fingers or rub the opposite leg or arm for a few minutes. If it still doesn't feel better, blow cool air from a hand-held hair dryer into the cast. You may also rub the skin at the edges of the cast with rubbing alcohol to relieve itching and provide a cooling effect. Never put anything inside the cast to scratch your skin.
  • Wash any skin not covered by your cast with soap and water every day. When your take a bath or shower, securely wrap the cast in plastic so it doesn't get wet. Sponge baths may be necessary if the cast is big.

When to call the doctor

If you have any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • Severe pain or swelling that doesn't go away with medication, elevation or rest.
  • Numbness or "pins and needles" sensation under the cast.
  • An exposed body area around the cast (such as toes or fingers) becomes cold, numb or bluish.
  • Inability to move toes or fingers on the casted side, compared to the other side.
  • A new stain on the cast or foul odor coming from inside.
  • Skin irritation or rash around the cast edges.
  • Cast becomes broken, cracked, loose, soft, or melted.
  • Unexplained fever above 101°F.
  • If any kind of object gets stuck inside the cast.

Removing the cast

When your injury is healed, your doctor will use a tool called a "cast cutter" to take off your cast. The cast cutter will only cut the hard cast.

After your cast is off, your skin will be dry, pale, and scaly. To soften and remove the dead skin, soak your arm/leg in warm water and use skin moisturizers.

Follow your doctor's instructions about physical activity after your cast is removed.

From the Parent/Patient Education Series
Holmes Regional Medical Center Pediatric Services

Peds: Pt Ed 13. Revised 4/98, 6/00.