All casts are made with two layers – a soft inner layer and a hard outer shell, typically made of fiberglass. In the past, wearing a cast meant strategically avoiding water at all costs, meaning simple tasks like bathing were inconvenient and fun summer activities like swimming were off the table. That all changed in the early ‘90s when waterproof casts were first developed.
But are waterproof casts all they’re cracked up to be? Read on to learn what you need to know about regular casts and waterproof casts to decide which is better for you.
When a regular cast is put on, several layers of soft cotton are first wrapped around the injured area. The fiberglass outer layer is soaked in water. The fiberglass is wrapped around the soft first layer and sits until it hardens, creating a protective covering.
Advantages of a Regular Cast
- Regular casts are easier to apply than waterproof casts
- Regular casts come in a variety of fun colors and can be signed by friends and family
- Less expensive and typically covered by insurance
Disadvantages of a Regular Cast
- Regular casts cannot get wet, which means you must wrap your cast in plastic before bathing and avoid activities like swimming
- If the cast does get lightly wet you need to dry it with a hair dryer right away
- If the cast gets submerged in water or significantly wet, it will need to be replaced
- Because the lining of a regular cast is absorbent, that layer is more likely to harbor mildew
- Mildew can cause a foul odor, which means your cast may start to smell, especially if you sweat a lot
Caring for a Regular Cast
To care for a regular cast, it’s important that it remains dry. For younger children with a regular cast, we recommend sponge baths to clean their body. Older children can take baths but we recommend covering the cast with two plastic bags, using a rubber band to seal the top and bottom. Be sure to keep the cast completely out of the water. If the cast does get slightly wet, use a hair dryer to gently blow air on the damp area. If the cast gets very wet, be sure to contact your doctor right away.
Like traditional casts, waterproof casts are made up of two layers. The first layer is where the secret to a waterproof cast lies. This layer comes in contact with the skin, and in waterproof casts is made with a special material that does not absorb water.
Benefits of a Waterproof Cast
- Waterproof casts do not absorb water, which means they don’t harbor mildew in the same way a regular cast can
- Because waterproof casts don’t harbor mildew, they are less likely to smell
- You can bathe while wearing a waterproof cast which makes it easier to maintain good hygiene
- No preparation is needed before getting a waterproof cast wet
- Waterproof casts dry quickly
- Waterproof casts are durable and in many instances a child can play sports while wearing one
- Waterproof casts come in a variety of fun colors and can be signed by friends and family
Disadvantages of a Waterproof Cast
- Waterproof casts aren’t recommended for those with an open skin wound at the area that needs to be casted
- Some may be allergic to the material used in the first layer of a waterproof cast
- Waterproof casts are more difficult to put on than traditional casts
- More expensive than a regular cast and not always covered by insurance
Caring for a Waterproof Cast
Caring for waterproof casts is relatively simple. There is no prep necessary before getting the cast wet. When you bathe or shower, make sure to flush the cast and the cast line with clean water to remove any soap. If you can, dry your cast with a hair dryer on the cool setting after it gets wet.
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At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If a broken bone or cast is making life difficult, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.