Broken or fractured bones are a normal hazard of childhood, especially for children who participate in sports or other “rough” activities. Unfortunately, when these accidents occur, the resulting break or fracture needs time to repair itself. This typically involves the use of a cast to prevent movement of the affected bone and allow proper healing to occur.
However, your child’s cast must also be cared for in order to prevent damage to the cast or complications for your child. Here are some considerations for proper cast care and maintenance .
Avoid Wetting the Cast
Unless your child’s cast was made with waterproof cast materials or has a waterproof cast liner, it’s essential that the cast does not get wet. This means that normal showers and baths are off-limits and should be replaced with sponge baths. Should you choose to shower normally, it’s important to cover the cast in plastic bags or a towel first to protect it. Should the cast come into contact with water, use a hair dryer set to cool to dry it. It’s also important to note that you must request waterproof cast material from your doctor if it is desired, and that insurance may not cover its cost.
Keep The Arm Elevated
For the first 24 hours after cast placement, your doctor may instruct your child to keep his or her arm elevated. This will help minimize any post-injury swelling, which could also make the cast feel uncomfortable. To do this, your child’s arm should remain at an elevation higher than their heart, like they’re about to do a “high five.” Pillows or folded blankets can be used to help them maintain this position. In addition, it’s important that they move the toes or fingers of the affected limb to further reduce swelling.
Some itching under the cast is normal and should be expected. To address it, either use a hair dryer set to cool and blow it under the cast or tap on the cast itself. Objects should never be placed underneath the cast to satisfy an itch as this can result in injury and infection to the skin or damage to the cast padding. Or, you can use your normal soap and rinse with forceful water, from a shower head or hose, for example. If itching is severe or constant, call your child’s doctor.
Many parents may become alarmed if they discover that their child’s cast smells. However, this is normal. Because the area underneath the cast cannot be washed, and because standard cotton cast padding can hold dead skin cells in addition to absorb sweat and skin oils, some unpleasant odors are to be expected. If you notice smells from the cast, do not use perfumes or powders on or underneath it. Waterproof cast padding helps to minimize smells by allowing the skin under the cast to be rinsed.
If you have any additional questions about cast care and maintenance, or if your child it experiencing problems with his or her cast, please call your doctor’s office right away.