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Cast Care Instructions
Caring for Your Child's Cast
If your child is wearing a cast, it is very important to take proper care of it to minimize the risk of skin irritations and infection. Take a look at these instructions for caring for your child's cast, which are also available for download in English, Spanish and Amharic.
Casts cannot get wet! Wet casts cause skin irritation and infections.
- Cover the cast with a towel, then a plastic bag
- Secure the plastic bag with tape or a rubber band
- Never submerge a cast under water
- For children 3 years old and younger: only perform sponge baths
Keep a spare plastic bag in your car, purse or child’s backpack in case of rain or snow.
Elevate your cast to prevent swelling of the fingers or toes.
For upper extremities:
- Keep the hand above the elbow and the elbow above the shoulder
- Use a sling to elevate while standing
For lower extremities:
- Keep the foot above the knee and the knee above the shoulder
- Always float the heel by placing a pillow or cushion under the calf
Elevation is most important for the first 24-48 hours, but may be necessary for longer depending on your injury.
- Casts can be itchy. Never place anything down or inside the cast.
- Do not put any type of lotion or powder inside the cast
- Do not remove any padding from inside the cast
- To help with itching:
- Encourage your child to decrease their activity levels. Sweating causes the skin under the cast to become hot and itchy.
- Blow cold air down the cast with a fan, hair dryer (on a cool setting) or air conditioner.
- Apply a cloth covered bag of ice over the cast. Ice may be kept on 20 minutes every hour. Never apply ice directly to the skin or cast.
- Tap on the cast gently with a wood spoon or other round object.
- Give your child over-the-counter allergy medicine like Claritin, Zyrtec or Benadryl. These medicines can help relieve itching and do not require a prescription. Ask the pharmacist how much to give if needed.
- If your child does not or cannot move on their own, change their position every 2 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night to prevent skin breakdown in the cast.
Please notify our staff if:
- Your child’s fingers or toes are:
- pale, blue or discolored
- have decreased feeling
- have increased swelling
- have decreased or no movement
- have tingling or “pins and needles” feeling
- have increased pain
- are no longer able to be seen due to the cast or the cast/splint is “slipping”
- Something becomes stuck in the cast
- The cast breaks, becomes wet or falls off
- There is a foul odor coming from the cast
- Your child is irritable or has a fever for no other obvious reason
- Your child has pain that is not relieved by medicine
- For more information about our cast care instructions, please call our orthopaedic nurses at 202-476-7120 between 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- If it is after hours, please call 202-476-5000 to speak with the orthopaedic resident on-call.
- To schedule an appointment with Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, please call 202-476-2112 and select option 2.