Wearing a Cast: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A cast protects a broken bone or other injury. Most casts are made of fibreglass, 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 or nurse call line 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?

General care

  • Follow your doctor's instructions for when you can first put weight on the cast. Fibreglass 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 your physiotherapist or occupational therapist for instructions.

Water and your cast

  • Keep your cast dry.
  • Tape a sheet of plastic to cover your cast 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.

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.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line 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 colour.
  • 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 or nurse call line if:

  • The cast is breaking apart.
  • You are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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