Good cast and skin care will help your recovery. This handout will tell you how to care for your cast. It will also give you guidelines for skin care and physical activities. If you have any questions, please ask your nurse or doctor.
1. It takes 24-48 hours for a cast to dry depending on whether it is fiberglass or plaster. While your cast is drying, keep the cast uncovered as much as you can. This will help it to dry. Do not do anything to change the shape of your cast.
2. Raise your casted arm or leg at least 4-6 inches above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
For casted legs: Under the calf of the casted leg, prop two or more pillows. Do not rest or prop leg using the heel area. This helps to keep the heel free of sores.
For casted arms: When you're up, wear a sling. When you're in bed, put your arm on top of two or more pillows and tape the arm to the pillows to prevent it from falling off. Don't bend your arm at the elbow when you're in bed.
3. Wiggle your fingers and toes to reduce swelling and increase circulation.
4. Take your temperature at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. daily for the first few days. If your temperature remains over 100.5°F or 38.1°C, call your doctor.
1. Check your fingers and toes daily. Call your doctor if you notice any of these signs:
- increased pain
- swelling that is not reduced by elevation
- extreme paleness
- a blue color to fingers or toes
- loss of movement (wiggle your fingers or toes to check)
- pain which is not relieved by medicine
2. Keep the cast dry and clean. (Just take sponge baths while you have a cast. When you wash, be sure to protect the edges of the cast with plastic. Please do not take showers or tub baths even if you have a synthetic cast. The moisture can weaken your cast and irritate your skin.)
3. Brush away loose plaster.
4. To protect the skin from irritation, cover the edges of the cast with waterproof tape or moleskin. This will also help prevent the edges of the cast from crumbling.
5. Do not cover your cast with pictures. Also, never draw over the area that was operated on. The ink may be absorbed and irritate the wound.
1. Check the skin under the edges of the cast each day. If you see persistent redness, broken skin or sores, call your doctor or the Orthopedic Clinic where you or your child was seen.
2. To relieve itching under the cast, blow cool air in with a hair dryer. Do not shake powder into the cast or stick any object into the cast to scratch the skin.
3. Keep your toes and fingers clean.
4. Do not cover the cast with plastic bags for a long time. Your skin needs to breathe.
Your doctor will talk with you about any limits you may have. Check with him or her about going back to work or school.
Your casted arm or leg will swell when you use it. The swelling may cause pain. To relieve the swelling, raise your arm or leg and wiggle your fingers or toes.
Clothing tip: sweat pants work well when a leg is in a cast. Also, Velcro strips along pant legs or shirt sleeves are helpful.
When to Call Your Doctor
- If your fingers or toes become cold, pale, numb, blue, or unable to move
- If you have severe or constant pain that is not relieved by pain medicine and elevation
- If there is an odor or unusual drainage under or through the cast
- If the cast becomes loose, cracked, broken, too tight, or wet
- Any other concerns you may have
Monday-Friday, 8:00-4:30 p.m., Orthopedic Clinic: (608) 263-7540
Pediatric Orhtopedic Clinic (608) 263-6420
Nights and weekends, this number will give you the paging operator. Ask the for the orthopedic resident on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/17/2012
Copyright © 02/17/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4332
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