Cast types and maintenance instructions

What is a cast?

A cast holds a broken bone in place as it heals. Casts also help to prevent or decrease muscle contractions, and are effective at providing immobilization, especially after surgery.

Casts immobilize the joint above and the joint below the area that is to be kept straight and without motion. For example, a child with a forearm fracture will have a long arm cast to immobilize the wrist and elbow joints.

Video: Watch how easy and painless it is to have a cast removed

What are casts made of?


The outside, or hard part of the cast, is made from two different kinds of casting materials.

  • Plaster - white in color
  • Fiberglass - comes in a variety of colors, patterns and designs

Cotton and other synthetic materials are used to line the inside of the cast to make it soft and to provide padding around bony areas, such as the wrist or elbow.

Special waterproof cast liners may be used under a fiberglass cast, allowing the child to get the cast wet. Consult your child's physician for special cast care instructions for this type of cast.

How can my child move around while in a cast?

Assistive devices for children with casts include: 

  • Crutches
  • Walkers
  • Wagons
  • Wheelchairs
  • Reclining wheelchairs

Cast care instructions:

  • Keep the cast clean and dry
  • Check for cracks or breaks in the cast
  • Rough edges can be padded to protect the skin from scratches
  • Do not scratch the skin under the cast by inserting objects inside the cast
  • Can use a hairdryer placed on a cool setting to blow air under the cast and cool down the hot, itchy skin. Never blow warm or hot air into the cast.
  • Do not put powders or lotion inside the cast
  • Cover the cast while your child is eating to prevent food spills and crumbs from entering the cast
  • Prevent small toys or objects from being put inside the cast
  • Elevate the cast above the level of the heart to decrease swelling
  • Encourage your child to move his/her fingers or toes to promote circulation
  • Do not use the abduction bar on the cast to lift or carry the child

Older children with body casts may need to use a bedpan or urinal in order to go to the bathroom. Tips to keep body casts clean and dry and prevent skin irritation around the genital area include the following:

  • Use a diaper or sanitary napkin around the genital area to prevent leakage or splashing of urine
  • Place toilet paper inside the bedpan to prevent urine from splashing onto the cast or bed
  • Keep the genital area as clean and dry as possible to prevent skin irritation

When to call your child's physician:

Contact your child's physician or healthcare provider if your child develops one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever greater than 101° F
  • Increased pain
  • Increased swelling above or below the cast
  • Complaints of numbness or tingling
  • Drainage or foul odor from the cast
  • Cool or cold fingers or toes