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Tips to Surviving Summer in a Cast

two providers and female patient with arm cast

Recovering from a broken bone can dampen a child’s spirits any time of year, but in the summer it can be a real bummer, especially if it requires wearing a cast for a month or more.

The orthopedic specialists at Shriners Children’s New England always see an uptick in fractures in the summer when kids tend to be more active outdoors. “Wrist fractures are by far the most common but we also see a lot of broken ankles, elbows and collarbones,” said physician assistant Adam Iwanski, PA. “Many fractures require four weeks of casting, but this can vary greatly based on the fracture. Sometimes casting is several months.”

According to Adam, “Sweating and itching are the biggest complaints we hear from patients with casts.”

While sweating is inevitable in hot temperatures, it’s important to prevent sweat from getting inside a cast. Keep a clean, dry towel handy to wipe around the cast to prevent sweat from dripping down into it. Be sure to change out of sweaty clothes and cool down as quickly as possible.

When it comes to an unscratchable itch, it’s tempting to use a pen, ruler or other long thin object to reach an itch inside your cast. “We find all sorts of items inside of casts but this is pretty dangerous,” cautioned Adam. “Foreign objects can become lodged and cause serious skin wounds and infections in a short time.” Aiming a hair dryer on the cool setting in the space between the cast and the skin is a good way to get some relief.

Many patients are also disappointed to hear that swimming is a no-go while wearing a traditional cast. Drops from a light splash or spray are typically OK, but a soaked cast needs to be changed. “Wet casts can cause significant skin issues,” explained Adam. “Putting a bag over a cast, even one advertised as made specifically for that purpose, is not foolproof. It’s best to avoid water altogether.”

If your cast starts to stink, it usually means it got wet with water or sweat and mold is growing. If you have red or raw skin peeking out from beneath your cast, contact your provider. You might have an infection. Otherwise, there’s not much you can do about the odor until the cast comes off. “Another important reason to keep it dry!” reminded Adam.

“Most importantly, if there is an increase in pain, a feeling that something has shifted, a color change in the fingers or toes, or numbness or tingling, you should call your provider. Definitely don’t try to adjust it or remove a cast yourself. Doing so could result in the fracture not healing properly and the need for additional treatment, including surgery,” warned Adam. “It’s best to just give us a call.”

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