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Boy with cast

How parents should care for a child’s cast

For many kids, a broken bone is a childhood rite of passage. All it takes is a fall from a bicycle or a slip from the monkey bars for them to find themselves in a cast.

When a child or teen breaks a bone, they need specific treatment because of their developing bones, especially if the break involves a growth plate. I and my fellow pediatric orthopedic specialists at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin have the advanced training and expertise to recognize and treat children’s fractures. But we need help from parents and kids to successfully complete the healing process by properly caring for the cast.

Tips for caring for a cast

Keep it dry
If it does get wet, apply cold air from a blow dryer and call the orthopedic clinic.

Do not stick anything down the cast to scratch an itch
This can cause the cast padding to bunch up and cause pressure sores. It is also potentially dangerous as an object could get stuck inside the cast, leading to ulcers and infections. Additionally, using an item to scratch can cause small abrasions. The warm, moist environment under a cast makes it easy for bacteria to grow and to cause an infection in the abrasions.

Modify playtime activities
Your child can run, jump and use playground equipment while wearing a cast, but refrain from any activities with wheels like skateboards, bicycles and inline skates. Also, avoid activities involving balls like baseball, basketball and soccer.

Do not pick at the padding
If the padding is gone, the cast could have sharp ends. Also, the pressure of the cast on the skin will not be dispersed appropriately.

Keep casts clean
A damp rag can remove dirt on the outside of the cast. Casts should never be put in water, unless they are waterproof.

When to call the orthopedic clinic

  • Fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Increased pain
  • Increased swelling above or below the cast
  • Complains of numbness or tingling
  • Drainage or foul order from the cast
  • Cool or cold fingers or toes