As if sustaining a sprain or fracturing a bone wasn’t bad enough, now comes the painful realization that you’ll have to deal with cast care and living for the next six to eight weeks with the injured limb constrained in a cast or splint that isn’t supposed to bend or get wet. How are you supposed to shower and bathe while wearing a cast? Get dressed? Write? Drive a car? It’s not easy, but the following tips for wearing a cast can help lessen the inconvenience while your sprain or bone fracture heals.
How To Shower and Bathe While Wearing A Cast Or Splint
Short of refusing to bathe and morphing into Charlie Brown’s stinky pal, Pig-Pen, you’re going to have to brave showering or hopping into the bath while you’re wearing your cast or splint. But it’s far from easy, considering moisture can weaken plaster casts (which slows and disrupts bone healing), and it can also cause irritation to develop between your skin and the cast’s padding, whether it’s a plaster cast or fiberglass cast. Here are a few helpful cast care hints to make bathing and showering a bit easier and ensure you keep your cast or splint dry:
- Many people prefer bathing over showering because it’s slightly easier to keep your injured limb hanging over the side of the tub so your cast doesn’t get wet. In addition, standing while wearing a waterproof cast cover can be slippery and dangerous.
- Be sure to completely waterproof your cast or splint by wrapping it in a couple of layers of plastic and sealing the edges with waterproof medical tape, or by using a waterproof product like a store-bought cast cover or spray products like Dry Pro, Seal-Tight and ShowerDri.
- Note that store-bought cast covers may be more cost effective than making homemade plastic bag covers, which rip upon removal and have to be replaced each and every time. With daily bathing, you’ll be taking anywhere from 42 to 56 showers while wearing your cast — and that’s a lot of plastic bags and tape!
- Remember that no matter how well you think you have made your cast or split waterproof, you should never submerge it or allow it to stand under running water. Even a tiny pinpoint hole in the plastic can lead to cast-damaging moisture.
- Try to convince a friend, family member or loved one to help you bathe or shower. At a minimum, an extra set of helping hands will help you in and out of the bathtub or shower, which can be slippery and dangerous if you’re wearing a leg cast and hobbling on one leg.
- If you’re wearing an arm or wrist cast, try using dry shampoo on your hair a couple of times per week, which can cut down on the amount of times you’ll actually have to get your hair wet to keep it clean.
- If you’re wearing an ankle or leg cast and showering is your only option, consider purchasing a plastic stool you can sit on during your shower. Don’t forget to waterproof your cast first, of course.
How To Get Dressed While Wearing A Cast Or Splint
Getting dressed is already tough enough without a cast or splint (What to wear?! What to wear?!), and having the extra hindrance is anything but fun. However, there are ways to make putting on your clothes a bit easier. Just follow these clothing-related cast care tips:
- Go for loose, stretchy material that can easily slide over a bulky cast or splint
- Consider wearing pants or skirts with elastic bands that can be pulled over your head
- Choose clothing with pockets so you won’t have to deal with purses and wallets (this is especially important if you have to deal with crutches, too)
- Avoid buttons and zippers if you’re wearing an arm or wrist cast or splint
- Try to wear shirts with no sleeves or short sleeves if you’re in an arm or wrist cast
- Drape yourself with a shawl or blanket when it’s cold rather than dealing with a cumbersome coat
- If possible, convince a friend, family member or loved one to help you get dressed
How To Write While Wearing A Cast Or Splint
If you’re lucky, your arm or wrist injury happened on your non-dominate hand. If that’s the case, then you may still be able to write with almost as much ease as before your injury. All you need to do is simply use a very heavy book or other weighty object to hold down the piece of paper you want to write on. This will help you minimize movement of your casted limb. If you had the misfortune of injuring your dominate hand, you may have to take a writing break and depend on the help of others. Alternatively, you can stab a pen through a small foam ball and use it as a writing device; holding the bulk of the ball allows your limited fingertips to control the pen.
How To Swim While Wearing A Cast Or Splint
Swimming while wearing a cast or splint is not recommended, but sometimes a sprain or fracture happens right before a major vacation that is supposed to involve a lot of pool time. If this happens to you, you may want to consider purchasing a waterproof cast cover like DryPro Waterproof Cast Cover. Most of these covers are plastic bags that suction tightly to your skin just above the edge of the cast. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind when using this method:
- Though cast covers can help shut out water and moisture from the injured area, they cannot guarantee a 100 percent waterproof seal. Additionally, they can only be worn for about 30 to 45 minutes at a time.
- However tempting it might be to head to the beach, doctors strongly advise against this because it’s nearly impossible to keep sand out of your cast, even if you protect it with a plastic seal.
- Note that you should contact your doctor or orthopedic surgeon if your cast gets wet. Any type of moisture can weaken the cast and slow bone healing.
How To Relieve Itchy Skin Under A Cast Or Splint
However tempting it may be to use a coat hanger, ruler or other long objects to relieve itchy skin under plaster or fiberglass, doctors advise against it because it can create tears and scratches on the skin that can easily become infected. Instead, you may want to talk to your doctor about anti-itch sprays designed specifically to relieve itching due to casting.
How To Drive While Wearing A Cast Or Splint
Unfortunately, a plethora of studies show that driving is one common activity that you should never do while wearing a cast or splint. Studies show that even something as small as a wrist cast can significantly reduce reaction time in drivers, and foot and leg casts can greatly interfere with braking and shifting gears. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) even states that highly trained drivers like police offers do not drive well while wearing casts.
Emergencies happen, however, and sometimes you can’t avoid having to operate a vehicle while wearing a cast or splint. If you must drive, then you should take back roads with less traffic that allow you to drive slower. Stay alert and never operate a motor vehicle while taking strong medications.