Casts and Splints: Uses and Care

May 3, 2019
Do you know the differences between casts and splints? Today, we'll tell you all about their different uses and care.

Casts and splints work to protect the parts of the body that have suffered some type of injury. This helps to accelerate the healing process, since it limits the movement of that body part. Additionally, it helps to reduce pain. Usually, casts and splints are made from plastic, cloth, plaster or fiberglass.

Although casts and splints serve the same purpose, the difference between them has to do with the inflammation of the injury. If there’s inflammation, a splint is the best option. That’s because it can be adequately adjusted to make it more comfortable. This will also help you prevent any circulation problems that could increase your pain.

As soon as the inflammation subsides, the doctor will usually replace the splint with a cast. Casts are harder and more compact, which better protects the injured area, whether it’s a broken bone or a sprain.

Care for Casts and Splints

Although the materials tend to be different and casts and splints are used for different circumstances, their care is fairly similar. Next, we’ll tell you what you need to keep in mind.

1. Keep them dry.

These are casts or splints.

Although there are some waterproof casts and splints these days, most of them aren’t. Therefore, you have to take special care to make sure they don’t get wet.

So what do you do when you’re taking shower or going swimming? Cover the cast with a plastic bag or sleeve that your doctor recommends.

If the cast or splint gets wet, and the moisture reaches the inner layer – the one that’s touching your skin – it won’t dry very easily. This can cause rashes, redness, itchy skin and, in extreme cases, even an infection.

2. Don’t try to scratch yourself.

The itching that can occur when wearing a cast or a splint can sometimes be unbearable. If you’ve ever been in this situation, we’re sure you’ve probably tried to use a pencil or another sharp object that would allow you to scratch the area. This isn’t a good idea, since these materials can also get trapped in your cast and cause an infection. 

One of the best ways to reduce that itching sensation is by blowing cool air into your cast using a hair dryer. Although the itching won’t completely disappear, at least you’ll get some relief.

Read this article: Effortless and Natural Ways to Relieve Dry Skin

3. Pay attention to any cracks.

Casts and splints sometimes crack and this can be problematic. Therefore, you have to keep an eye on them. Check to see if any part of it looks deformed or if an area feels softer than the rest of it.

A cast or splint that has these deformations can cause sores and an increase in inflammation and pain. Check it out every day and pay attention to any possible reddening of the skin; this is very important for ensuring that the injury doesn’t get any worse.

4. Change it as little as possible.

A kid has a broken arm.

Of course, when kids break a bone, it’s customary to draw pictures on their cast or to have their friends sign it. In itself, this doesn’t pose any problems. The issue is when the child starts pulling at and removing the inner part of the cast, the part that’s in contact with the skin.

This could cause severe sores. That’s why you have to try your best to not mess with the material. Remember, you can write on it without any problems. However, it’s best to use a permanent marker to keep the cast from looking unkempt.

Discover: Hand and Finger Injuries in Children

Feelings that You Shouldn’t Overlook

In addition to all of the care that we’ve mentioned, you should be attentive to various feelings that you shouldn’t overlook. That’s because they can endanger our health.

Here are some of them:

  • Fingers or toes tingling because they feel numb.
  • Losing feeling in extremities.
  • Skin begins to turn blue, white or purple.
  • Skin around the cast or splint is red.
  • The injured limb becomes inflamed while using the cast or splint.

All of these situations require immediate medical attention. Letting it go or waiting until the inflammation, redness or sensitivity goes away can lead to serious problems.

Additionally, if you also have a fever, an unusual smell or pain that won’t go away with the analgesics recommended by your doctor,  you should go to the emergency room.

  • Boyd, A. S., Benjamin, H. J., & Asplund, C. (2009, September 1). Splints and casts: Indications and methods. American Family Physician. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  • Boyd, A. S., Benjamin, H. J., & Asplund, C. (2009, January 1). Principles of casting and splinting. American Family Physician.
  • Rizzone, K., & Gregory, A. (2013). Using Casts, Splints, and Braces in the Emergency Department. Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine14(4), 340–348.