Caring for Your Cast: After Your Visit
Your Care Instructions
A cast protects a broken bone or other injury. Most casts are made of fiberglass, but plaster casts are still sometimes used.
Once a cast is on, you can't remove it yourself. Your doctor will take it off.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Follow your doctor's instructions for when you can first put weight on the cast. Fiberglass casts dry quickly and are soon ready to bear weight. But plaster casts may take several days before they are hard enough to use. When it's okay to put weight on your cast, do not stand or walk on it unless it is designed for walking.
- Prop up the injured arm or leg on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
- If the fingers or toes on the limb with the cast were not injured, wiggle them every now and then. This helps move the blood and fluids in the injured limb.
- Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- Keep up your muscle strength and tone as much as you can while protecting your injured limb or joint. Your doctor may want you to tense and relax the muscles protected by the cast. Check with your doctor or physical therapist for instructions.
Water and your cast
- Do not get your cast wet unless you have a fiberglass cast with a quick-drying lining.
- Keep your cast covered with at least two layers of plastic when you take a shower or bath or when you have any other contact with water. Moisture can collect under the cast and cause skin irritation and itching. It can make infection more likely if you have had surgery or have a wound under the cast.
- If you have a fiberglass cast with a fast-drying lining, make sure to rinse it with fresh water after you swim. It will take about an hour for the lining to dry.
Cast and skin care
- Try blowing cool air from a hair dryer or fan into the cast to help relieve itching. Never stick items under your cast to scratch the skin.
- Don't use oils or lotions near your cast. If the skin gets red or irritated around the edge of the cast, you may pad the edges with a soft material or use tape to cover them.
- Watch for pressure sores. These can develop over bony areas. Symptoms include a warm spot under the cast, pain, drainage, or an odor. Call your doctor if you think you have a pressure sore.
- Watch for compartment syndrome. This happens when pressure builds up in a group of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. It is an emergency. Symptoms include severe pain or tingling or numbness.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have increased or severe pain.
- You feel a warm or painful spot under the cast.
- You have problems with your cast. For example:
- The skin under the cast burns or stings.
- The cast feels too tight.
- There is a lot of swelling near the cast. (Some swelling is normal.)
- You have a new fever.
- There is drainage or a bad smell coming from the cast.
- Your foot or hand is cool or pale or changes color.
- You have trouble moving your fingers or toes.
- You have symptoms of a blood clot in your arm or leg (called a deep vein thrombosis). These may include:
- Pain in the arm, calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in the arm, leg, or groin.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- The cast is breaking apart.
- You are not getting better as expected.
Care instructions adapted under license by Slm. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.