How to Avoid Skin Infection, Control Swelling and Prevent Damaging Your Cast
Recover Smart – Mend Your Bone the Right Way
by Mike Richardson
It's amazing to consider how well our body can recover from a fall, crash, accident or stunt with the right treatment and care. I've been serving the medical community for many years, particularly orthopedic physicians and clinics, and I've seen patients with broken arms and broken legs recover from all sorts of crazy things – from a snowmobiler who didn't quite make the jump over the ravine to a kid who tried to jump his bike off the garage, onto the trampoline and into the pool and fell short.
If you're in an arm or leg cast for the next few weeks, here are a few cast care tips that will help you in your recovery:
- Always keep the arm cast or leg cast clean and dry.
- To reduce swelling, your doctor may instruct you to use ice. To keep the cast from becoming wet, place the ice in a plastic bag and then inside a towel. Apply ice to the injury 15 minutes each waking hour for the first 24-48 hours.
- Using several pillows, try to keep your broken arm or broken leg elevated above the level of the heart, especially in the first 24-48 hours. It will help reduce the swelling and pain.
- If the cast becomes loose with reduction of swelling in the broken arm or broken leg, call the doctor for an appointment. You will need to get the cast replaced for a tighter fit to keep from displacing the fracture.
- It is recommended not to shower while you have a leg cast or arm cast without a protective covering. For cast protection, use two layers of plastic or specialized bags to cover the cast when bathing. Double-check the protective bag before using a second time. There are a number of commercial devices available that you can get at any medical supply store to protect your cast from water.
- If a fiberglass cast ever accidentally gets wet or damp, dry it completely by using a hair dryer on a cool setting. If you can't dry the arm cast or leg cast completely, call your doctor to see if it needs to be replaced to avoid skin infection.
- Check for cracks or breaks in the cast. Do not lean or push on the cast. If the pressure becomes too great, it may cause the cast to break.
- Rough edges can be padded to protect the skin from abrasion. Suggestion would be to use moleskin or some type of adhesive backed material provided by the doctor’s office.
- Do not scratch the skin under the case by inserting objects inside the cast. Never insert anything into the cast as you can cause skin breakdown by a scratch or cut that gets infected.
- Search online for cast accessories. You’ll find products that will help you keep it dry in the shower or pool, i.e., one that uses a vacuum to draw in cool air to prevent itching and shrinkable cast covers with fun designs that shrink on your cast to help keep it clean.
I hope these cast care tips will be helpful as you go through your recovery period.
Remember to consult your physician with any questions you have about your cast or recovery.