Patient Information

Why do I have a cast or splint?

Why do I have a cast or splint? — Your doctor gave you a cast or splint to treat your broken bone. The cast or splint will reduce your pain and protect your bone as it heals.

Why is it important to take care of a cast or splint? — It’s important to take care of a cast or splint so that the skin under the cast doesn’t get hurt or infected.

Can I get my cast wet? — It depends on what kind of cast you have. Your doctor will tell you if you have a waterproof cast that can get wet. Otherwise, you should not get your cast wet.

To keep your cast dry when you bathe, cover it with a plastic bag and tape the bag shut. Then keep your cast outside the tub or shower when you wash your body. Some people buy a waterproof cast cover to use when bathing. If you use a waterproof cast cover, it’s still a good idea to keep your cast outside the tub or shower. These covers are not completely waterproof.

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If your cast gets wet, you can dry it with a hair dryer set to the cool setting. Do not use a warm or hot setting, because those settings can burn the skin. You can also use a vacuum cleaner that has a hose to help dry your cast. Put the hose next to your cast so that you suck wet air out of the cast.

What are other ways I can take care of my cast? — To take care of your cast, you can:

  • Keep your cast clean and avoid getting dirt or sand inside it
  • Not put anything inside your cast
  • Not put powder or lotion on the skin near your cast
  • Not pull the lining out from inside the cast
  • Cover your cast when you eat, so that it doesn’t get dirty

What if I have pain under my cast during the first few days? — If you have pain during the first few days, you can:

  • Put ice on the cast — Use a bag of ice, bag of frozen peas, or cold gel pack every 2 hours, for 20 minutes each time. Do not put the ice directly on your skin.
  • Keep your cast raised (for example, on pillows) to help reduce swelling — To reduce swelling and pain, your cast needs to be raised above the level of your heart.
  • Take medicine to relieve your pain — If your doctor prescribed pain-relieving medicine, you can take that. You can also ask your doctor or nurse about taking over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil®, Motrin®).
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What if the skin under my cast itches? — If your skin itches, you can use a hair dryer set to the cool setting to blow air inside the cast. Do not put anything in your cast to scratch the skin.

Should I see a doctor or nurse? — See your doctor or nurse right away if:

  • You have severe pain or pain that is getting worse
  • You have sores or cuts on the skin under the cast
  • Your cast smells bad, feels too tight, or cracks
  • You have swelling that causes pain
  • You are unable to move your fingers or toes
  • Your fingers or toes are blue or cold
  • Your cast becomes soaking wet or you are unable to dry it