Cast Care

What is a cast?

A cast surrounds an injured body part to protect it, keep it from moving, and allow it to heal. Casts are made of fiberglass or plaster. They are most often used for broken bones. They are also used sometimes for torn ligaments or tendons.

A cast may be put on in your healthcare provider’s office or an emergency department, or after surgery at the hospital.

How is a cast put on?

Your healthcare provider will first place padding around the injured part of your body to protect the skin. Both plaster and fiberglass come in rolls or strips that are soaked in water and then wrapped around over the padding. The casting material will harden as it dries.

How is a cast removed?

Your healthcare provider will remove the cast with a saw designed so that it will not cut your skin. The cast should be removed only by your provider.

How long will I need to have a cast?

How long you need a cast depends on your injury. Some injuries heal within a few weeks and some take several months. Your cast may need to be replaced or adjusted as your injury heals.

How can I take care of myself?

To keep swelling down and help relieve pain:

  • Take pain medicine as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Keep the cast up on pillows when you sit or lie down.
  • If your uninjured fingers or toes are free below the cast, wiggle them every few minutes.

Keep your cast dry. A plaster cast will fall apart if it gets wet. A fiberglass cast won’t fall apart but the padding underneath may itch or start to smell if it gets wet. Wet padding may also hurt your skin.

  • If you are going to be exposed to water, even rain, protect the cast from getting wet. A plastic bag held in place over the cast with a rubber band may protect it for a short time. Plastic covers that keep the cast dry in the shower are available in pharmacies or drug stores.
  • If your cast gets wet you may be able to dry it with a hair dryer set on a cool setting. However, you should contact your healthcare provider because you may need your cast to be changed.
  • In some cases you may be able to have a special cast and liner that allow you to get the cast wet and even swim.

Many people have itching inside a cast. A hairdryer on a cool setting or a fan blowing into the end of the cast may help the itching. Avoid scratching the skin around the cast or poking things down between the cast and your skin. It may hurt your skin and cause an infection.

Casts can break if they are hit. Do not use the cast to pound or hit objects.

How active you can be with the cast depends on your injury. You may need to use a sling or crutches with your cast. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-08-05
Last reviewed: 2013-07-19
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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