What You Need to Know About Casts

There’s more to casts than just having each of your friends sign it. Find out all you need to know about casts because you never know when your child might get one.

What is a cast?

A cast keeps a bone from moving so it can repair. A cast has two layers – a soft cotton layer that covers the skin, and a hard outer cover that keeps the bone from moving.

Different kids of casts

Plaster of paris – it is a white powder that turns into paste when mixed with water, and which hardens very quickly. Casts made of plaster of plaster of paris are heavier than fiber glass casts. They also do not hold up as well.

Synthetic material (fiberglass) – fiberglass is a kind of moldable plastic. They are lighter, cooler, and they come in many colors. The outer layer of the fiber glass case is water resistant. The padding inside is not. You can get a waterproof liner, but your child’s doctor will decide to if it’s appropriate.

How is a cast put on?

The injured area is first wrapped in several layers of cotton. Next, the plaster of paris or fiberglass outer layer is soaked in water. The doctor then wraps the outer covering around the soft first layer. The outer layer is wet but it will quickly harden into a protective covering. Sometimes doctors make tiny cuts in the sides of the cast to allow room for swelling.

Can casts get wet?

A cast made of plaster of paris should be kept from getting wet. A wet plaster of paris cast could start to dissolve in water. It may not hold the bone in place and may irritate – even infect – the skin underneath. Thus, swimming is a definite no-no. Instead of a shower, give your child a sponge bath. Also, your child should use a plastic bag or special sleeve to keep the cast from getting wet.

Fiberglass casts are waterproof. But, as noted earlier, the soft layer underneath is not. Thus, it is still necessary to keep the inner layer dry. If your doctor deems it appropriate, you can get a waterproof padding so you can take a bath, or even swim. But, even though fiberglass casts allow for water and sweat evaporation, it is still fragile. Moreover, fiberglass casts can be used to treat certain types of bone breaks. Your doctor will determined if your break can be treated with a waterproof cast.

Is it OK to write on the cast?

Writing or drawing on the cast is okay. Use permanent markers since washable markers can smear.


If your child has an itch in the cast you can try blowing some air in the cast (set it on cold first). Do not use long, pointed objects to try to reach the itch. Also avoid pouring baby powder or oils in the cast to try to relieve the itch. These can scratch or irritate the skin and lead to an infection.


Cracks can appear on your child’s cast if it hit hard, has a weak spot, or if the infected area starts to swell. If you notice cracks on your child’s casts, call your doctor immediately. Most cases only require simple repairs.

Purplish skin and redness

If you notice your child’s skin turning white, blue, or purple, his cast maybe too tight. Redness and rawness of the skin around the edges of the cast are usually signs that the cast is wet inside – probably from sweat or water. Sometimes kids pick at or remove the padding from the edges of the fiberglass. If any of these happens call your doctor to have the problem treated immediately.


When your child’s broken bone is put in a cast, some pain is expected for the first few days, usually not severe. To ease the pain, your child’s doctor may recommend ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Why some types of broken bones are not pun in casts

Some broken bones (fractures) do not need casts to heal. Certain fractures of larger, long bones such as the femur (thigh bone) are difficult to keep straight in a cast. Doctors may put these fractures in traction, but more often, surgery is used instead.

How are casts removed?

The doctor will use an electric saw to remove the cast. The saw’s blade is round and dull, so it won’t hurt your child’s skin. It vibrates up and down to break apart the plaster or fiber glass. Assure your child that removing a cast is quick and painless.

How will the injured area look?

Once the cast is removed, the injured area will probably look and feel weird to your child. Usually the skin will be pale, dry or flaky; hair will look darker; and the area will look smaller. Assure your child that it is just temporary. Also, depending on the location of the injury, the doctor may recommend special exercises for your child to do to get the muscles around the broken bone back in order.

Source: MSN Health


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