Cast Care

What do I need to know about cast care?

Your cast may need up to 48 hours to dry and harden completely. Even after your cast hardens, it can be damaged. Cast care will help the cast dry and harden correctly, and then protect it until it comes off.

How do I care for my cast while it hardens?

  • Protect the cast: Do not put weight on the cast. Do not bend, lean on, or hit the cast with anything. Use the palms of your hands when you move the cast. Do not use your fingers, because this can create indentations on the cast as it dries.

  • Change positions often: Change your position every 2 hours to help the cast dry faster. Prop your cast on something soft, such as a pillow, to prevent a flat area on your cast.

  • Keep the cast dry: Tie plastic trash bags around your cast to keep it dry while you bathe. You may use a blow dryer on cool or the lowest heat setting to dry your cast if it gets wet. Do not use a high heat setting, because you can burn your skin. Certain casts can get wet. Ask if you have a waterproof cast.

How do I care for my cast after it hardens?

  • Check your cast every day: Contact your caregiver if you notice any cracks, dents, holes, or flaking on your cast.

  • Keep your cast clean and dry: Cover your cast with a towel when you eat. You may have a small piece of cast that can be removed to check on incisions under your cast. Make sure the small piece of cast is kept tightly closed. If your cast gets dirty, use a mild detergent and a damp washcloth to wipe off the outside of your cast. Continue to cover your cast with trash bags to keep it dry while you bathe.

  • Care for the edges of your cast: Cover the cast edges to keep them smooth. Use 4 inch pieces of waterproof tape. Place one end of the tape under the inside edge of your cast and fold it over to the outside surface. Overlap tape strips until the edges are completely covered. Change the tape as directed. Do not pull or repair any of the padding from inside the cast. This could cause blisters and sores on the skin under your cast.

  • Keep weight off your cast: Do not let anyone push down or lean on your cast. This may cause it to break.

  • Do not use sharp objects: Do not use a sharp or pointed object to scratch under your cast. This may cause wounds that can get infected, or you may lose the item inside the cast. If your skin itches, blow cool air under the cast. You may also gently scratch your skin outside the cast with a cloth.

What are the risks of wearing a cast?

  • Allergic reaction: A cast may cause your skin to itch, swell, and turn red.

  • Compartment syndrome: This happens when blood flow to your arm or leg is blocked by swelling or pressure from the cast. Your cast may look and feel very tight. You may feel pain or numbness in the cast area. You may have pain that is not relieved by medicine, ice, or elevating your limb.

  • Skin sores: You may get blisters or sores if your cast is too tight, or the skin under your cast is scratched.

  • Infection: Sores or wounds under your cast may get infected. This may cause pain, swelling, and a fever.

  • Joint stiffness: You may have joint stiffness from not moving your arm or leg normally.

  • Muscle loss: You may lose strength in the muscles under your cast.

  • Burns: Heat is produced while the cast hardens. This may cause pain and redness, and burn your skin.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Something falls into your cast and gets stuck.

  • You have itching, pain, burning, or weakness in the casted body area.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have sores, blisters, or breaks on the skin around the edges of the cast.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your cast breaks or gets damaged.

  • You see drainage, or your cast is stained or smells bad.

  • Your skin turns blue or pale.

  • Your skin tingles, burns, or is cold or numb.

  • You have severe pain that is getting worse and does not go away after you take pain medicine.

  • Your limb swells, or your cast looks or feels tighter than it has before.

  • You have trouble breathing and chest pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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