When your child has a broken bone, a cast plays a very important job in the healing process as it helps the bone to both heal effectively and quickly. Below are FAQs that your child may want to remember while taking care of their cast.
What is a cast for?
The primary job of a cast is to hold the bone in place, or immobilize it, while it is in the healing process. There are two layers of the cast. The inner layer, which rests on top of your skin, is a soft cotton layer. The outer layer is the hard-shelled layer, which prevents the bone from moving. However, not all broken bones will need to be in a cast. Fractures such as broken ribs or a broken collarbone, generally do not require casting, but are placed in a strap or sling to heal. Some broken bones may be held solid by using a splint or layers of tape.
Is there more than one type of cast?
Plaster of Paris and Synthetic (fiberglass) are the two types of casts. Plaster of Paris is created when water is mixed with a heavy white powder, which forms a paste. This hardens rapidly and forms a hard cast when dry. A synthetic cast is produced from a molded plastic and provided in a variety of bright colors.
How are casts applied?
A healthcare professional will put several layers of cotton over the area of the broken bone. Plaster or fiberglass is then soaked in water and placed on top of the cotton, and when it drys it will create a hard outer layer that will protect the injured area.
What if the cast gets wet?
You will need to keep from getting a Plaster of Paris cast from getting wet! Water will dissolve the plaster and it will not longer be a hard outer shell so the injured area is no longer protected. It may also irritate the skin where the injury occurred. While a fiberglass cast is said to be water-resistant, it is recommended by healthcare professionals not to submerge the cast in water. You can get a synthetic cast that has a liner that is waterproof. Inquire with your healthcare professional about a waterproof cast because only certain types of broken bone injuries can accommodate that option. In the event that your fiberglass cast is not waterproof, then you will need to have it in a plastic bag or perhaps buy a special sleeve that will protect it from water.
What do I do if it itches under my cast?
Sometimes it will itch under your cast. One way to help lessen the itch is use a hair dryer and blow cool air under the cast. Do NOT try pouring baby oil or baby powder down under the cast and never ever put any sharp objects under the cast to scratch an itch as it could cause an infection, especially if it opens up the skin.
When do I need to have my cast changed?
Should your cast crack, contact your healthcare professional as soon as possible so they may determine when and where the cast needs to be repaired or replaced. You should contact a doctor immediately if your toes or fingers start to change colors because this is an indication that the cast may be to tight. If you see that these is redness and the skin appears to be raw, then that is a sign that there is moisture inside the cast. This generally occurs due to sweating or water getting inside somehow. To help prevent infection, contact your healthcare professional immediately so they may help you plan an appropriate course of action.
How is the cast removed?
A small electric saw with a semi-dull, rounded blade is used to cut apart the cast. The saw should not hurt you, but may actually tickle if you feel it. Once the cast is off, the area under the cast will be pale and dry. The area will also be weak, as it has not be able to move for a period of time. This will change, though, with time and physical therapy.
Whether your child has fallen on the soccer field, gotten hurt on the playground or has a complex spine condition, an orthopedic diagnosis can bring fear and worry to a parent’s heart. Our goal at Rocky Mountain Pediatric OrthoONE is to make that fear go away. Our board-certified orthopedic pediatric surgeons and physicians assistants have extensive training in the structure and function of your child’s musculoskeletal system. We work closely with you and your child, as well as your primary care physician, to discuss treatment options for your child.