Pediatric HealthSource: Caring for Casts

Julie B. Samora, M.D.
Inset: Julie B. Samora, M.D., Ph.D.

Q: My son broke his arm. What is the best way to take care of his cast?

A: Although a cast can be an interruption of daily life, it’s only temporary. With proper attention and care, breaks heal and casts come off. In the meantime, it’s important to know how best to care for a cast.

Fiberglass casts are used most often because they are strong and lightweight. Plaster casts are easily applied but dissolve in water, making proper care more difficult. If a child has a fiberglass cast with a waterproof liner, they can bathe and shower as normal. A hair dryer on the cool setting should be used to dry the skin inside and around the cast after water exposure to prevent irritation caused by damp skin. For nonwaterproof casts, a cast cover or a plastic bag (taped securely to protect the cast) must be used when bathing or showering.

Itchiness is a common complaint while wearing a cast. With a fiberglass cast, spraying water inside to remove the dead skin can help. For a plaster cast, try blowing air through it using a hair dryer on the cool setting. In either case, parents can knock on the cast (like knocking on a door) just above the itch. It’s very important not to force anything into the cast for the purpose of scratching; a cut or break in the skin can cause infection.

Once the cast is removed, wash the area with soap and water to get rid of the dead skin, and expose it to air as much as possible. Applying lotion or Aquaphor can be useful, as the skin is a bit dry upon cast removal. The skin will look normal in a matter of days.

Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.

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Julie B. Samora, M.D., Ph.D., is an orthopedic physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

This story is from the Winter 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.

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More Care Tips

  • Get creative with hygiene. Use an electric toothbrush to make it easier to brush with the nondominant hand if the other is injured.
  • Expect a child to need lots of help. A child wearing a cast will need assistance doing many things they previously did unaided: carrying items, taking care of personal hygiene, doing homework and more. Children will get into a new self-care routine, but parents can provide a doctor’s note to school if special accommodations are necessary.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions. Rigorous activities should be avoided during healing. Icing the injury might be recommended to reduce swelling, and medication might be prescribed.