Basic Information About Casts (The Top 7 FAQ’s and 1 Smelly Fact)


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Before my daughter, Elli, broke her first bone, I really didn’t know anything about casts, let alone how to care for one. But after 12 broken bones, and serving hundreds of thousands of customers, I am a verified expert and I want to pass on what I learned to you. Following are cast newbies most frequent questions and my answers. In short, here’s some basic information about casts: 

Question 1:  What are casts made of and do they come in colors?
Casts can be made of plaster or fiberglass.  Plaster only comes in white, while the tape used to make fiberglass can come in a variety of colors, sometimes even fun designs.  Each orthopedic office or emergency room is unique in what they have on hand.  Don’t hesitate to ask.  Before I started CastCoverz!, Elli broke her leg when she was 7.  It was right before July 4th, so I asked the ER doctor to fashion the cast with red, white and blue casting tape. Her cast looked like a patriotic pole! Fun Fact: Over 80% of casts are now fiberglass and the preferred choice of doctors, cast techs, and patients. A fiberglass cast is lightweight and easier to apply than plaster casts.

Question 2:  Is a splint cast or clamshell cast different than a cast?
A splint cast is often used during the first few days after a bone has been broken. This is to allow for swelling to go down, so a traditional cast can then be applied.  A splint cast can be fashioned with material that is formed over the broken body part that hardens when air hits it, and wrapped with an Ace© bandage. Or it can be pre-formed plastic “shells” that are also wrapped in an Ace bandage to allow for swelling. Depending on the break, you may be put in a brace.  Regardless of whether you remain in a splint cast or a clamshell cast, your broken bone is being immobilized and protected. You are casted.

Question 3:  What is safe to stick inside my cast to make it stop itching?
Nothing! Never stick a ruler, pencil, coat hanger, or anything down a cast.  It will likely break off and get embedded increasing the risk of infection.  My daughter was 2, with her second arm cast, when she kept pointing to her cast and saying, “Rock, mommy.” We had been to the beach, so it was possible. We also had a waterproof cast (sadly, hardly available anymore), so I poured water down it to “wash” it out.  Nothing came out, so I kept telling her, “Nothing’s there.” Well, I ate crow when the cast came off.  Sure enough there was a rock pressing, no it was smashed, into her itty bitty wrist.  It left an impression in her skin for weeks.  I kept that rock in a piece of tape and pinned to my workboard to remind me that I don’t have all the answers and to listen to everybody, even, and especially, 2 year olds in a cast.

Smelly Fact: So, why is there itch and smell?   The cotton liner of a cast is also the culprit for the can’t-get-to itches and whiff-as-you-walk-by smells.  Why?  Because no matter how careful we are keeping the cast dry, we still perspire 24/7.  The moisture gets trapped in the cotton lining, bacteria grows, and voila…you and your cast are now smelly and itchy! Eww! But you can prevent the itch and smell with this cool, dad-invented product, the CastCooler (be sure to check out the mom-submitted video of her son getting relief from cast itch).

Question 4:  What can happen if my cast gets wet?
Not only does it lead to skin irritation (and stinky smell!) it can also lead to infection, also known as maceration, and the integrity of the cast is compromised.  That’s why it is so important to keep casts as dry as possible (better than garbage bags, CastCoverz! carries waterproof products for showering or swimming to minimize and prevent the risk of getting your cast wet).  If your cast gets soaked, be prepared with a CastCooler (dries your cast completely) or immediately head to your orthopedic surgeon’s office for a replacement cast!

Question 5:  How do I bathe or shower while wearing cast?
Staying clean while wearing a cast can be tricky, but with the advancement of waterproof products and some tricks I’ve learned, you can still be fresh as a spring daisy.  Overall, a sponge bath is suggested the first few days to a week, until the swelling and pain subsides, the permanent cast is applied, and you get used to any weight/balance issues.  For leg casts, take a bath and drape your casted leg over the side.  For arm casts, showering is fine, but keep your arm up over your head.  For both leg and arm casts, you can use Glad© Press ‘n Seal or garbage bags taped to your skin to (try to) seal out moisture.  But, that doesn’t allow much dignity while bathing and it’s problematic to apply, use, and take off.  That’s why CastCoverz! carries only the best waterproof products for showering/bathing and swimming.

Question 6:  How can I keep my cast clean and stop the scratching and snagging of furniture and clothing, even other people?
While you can cover your arm or leg cast with socks and/or leggings, that doesn’t really do the job. They slide down, don’t fit and, because you’ve cut holes in them to adapt your cast, laundering further destroys them.  So you’re back to cutting up another pair of socks. After struggling with my daughter’s casts, scratching the dinner room table, snagging sweaters, scratching the car upholstery, roughing up the furniture, adaptations of socks and leggings, and wanting to just cheer her up, I knew there had to be a better way, so I created a cover for her ugly, nasty cast.  Aha!  CastCoverz! was born.  We provide fun and functional covers for arm casts,  leg casts, boots, and so much more. In addition, why not take a ‘normal’ shower, go to the beach, or keep up with swim practice by using our waterproof products? We have a variety of products to fit your needs, including designer colored crutches and comfortable designer crutch pads.

Question 7:  How do I decorate my cast?
You are limited only by your imagination and maintaining the integrity of your cast (no puncturing, sawing or filing of your cast, please).  The classic method is to ask your friends to wish you well with markers (darker colors work best).  You can draw a whimisical picture and/or use decals (stickers fall off).  You can bedazzle it with glue-on jewels (press on falls off).  You can have it professionally tatooed, cover it with socks, or cut and sew a cover yourself  (heavy weight stretchy fabric works best).  There is even a product you can use to decal your cast (personally, I don’t recommend it because you have to use a hot dryer to apply it and the cast still remains scratchy and gets dirty).  Or you can “cover” all the bases of keeping it clean, preventing the snags and scratches, and expressing yourself, with one product: CastCoverz! cast covers.  You will find we did a lot of the work for you by offering an array of fabric designs for a variety of body parts, casts, and sizes.

There’s much more to taking care of a cast, including how to care for the injured body part(s) while casted. You can find some great tips from one of our favorite sites, Kids Health, a website devoted to children’s health and parenting.

I hope that you find having a cast a little less daunting. May you or your loved one take good and careful care!

Got a question that wasn’t answered?  Post your family friendly question below.

Feel Better, Heal Better with CastCoverz!

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