Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Cast care

4-minute read

A cast is a hard, protective cover wrapped around a broken bone (fracture) to hold it in place while the bone heals. Once the bone is held still by the cast, it should heal by itself. After your cast has been put on, it's important to look after it. Here are some tips on how to take the best care of your cast.

Putting the cast on

  • First, your healthcare professional will wrap the injured area in soft cotton or a bandage.
  • Then an outer layer of plaster of Paris or fibreglass material is applied. It is soaked in water then wrapped around the inner layer, where it will dry to form a hard protective shell.
  • You may have a full cast that wraps around your whole limb. Or you could have a ‘back slab’ or half cast, which wraps halfway around your limb and is held in place with a bandage.
  • Sometimes the healthcare professional will make cuts in a full cast or cut it in half lengthwise. This is because your limb may swell for the first day or so and they want to make sure the cast is not too tight.

Taking the cast off

Once the bone is healed, the cast is taken off using a special saw. The saw’s vibrations break the cast, not a spinning blade, so it doesn’t hurt or damage your skin. You should never try to take off a cast yourself.

How long will I have a cast for?

The cast usually stays on for 6 weeks as this is how long it takes for the bone to heal. During that time, you'll need to go back to the hospital or clinic to check the condition of your cast and see how the bone is healing.

Taking care of your cast

  • If you have a plaster of Paris cast (plaster cast), rest for a couple of days after the cast has been put on to make sure it fully dries.
  • Keep the injured limb elevated for the first two days, as this will help stop swelling and your cast becoming too tight.
  • Regularly move your fingers and toes to keep circulation flowing.
  • If your cast is not water resistant, don’t get it wet. Put 1 or 2 plastic bags around it and seal with a rubber band or duct tape when having a bath or shower.
  • If you have a water-resistant cast, you may be able to get it wet but check with your healthcare professional first. Once wet, rinse it with clean water and drain from both ends by changing the position of the cast.
  • Keep the inside of the cast clean by keeping dirt, food, powders, lotions and sand away from it.
  • Don’t put foreign objects inside the cast, including objects used to scratch the skin. They can cause a rash or infection.
  • Don’t cut or try to change the shape of the cast. If it's too tight or rubbing, go back to your doctor or hospital.
  • If the cast is on your foot, don’t walk directly on it. Use a plaster boot and crutches, if you have been given them.
  • Follow any other cast-care instructions you receive from your healthcare professional.

Problems to watch out for

Contact your doctor or hospital straight away if you experience:

  • a fever
  • tingling or numbness in your toes or fingers, or if they won’t move
  • your fingers or toes swelling or changing colour
  • a burning feeling, stinging or persistent pain under the cast
  • your cast feeling too tight or too loose
  • a bad smell coming from inside your cast
  • blisters, a rash, red or raw skin around the edges or inside the cast

Go back to your doctor or hospital within 24 hours if your plaster cracks, breaks or goes soft.

Last reviewed: March 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Caring for your plaster cast

A plaster cast is applied to injured limbs to keep them from moving.

Read more on WA Health website

Plaster care - Better Health Channel

Even after a plaster is removed, the bone is still healing, so take care for at least another month.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Plaster cast or backslab care instructions for patients and their carers | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Fractures - bone healing | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Broomstick plaster | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Orthodontic treatment

Orthodontics involves the use of a range of corrective devices, such as braces and plates, to encourage the teeth to align properly.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Caring for your broken limb before surgery

Information about caring for a broken limb before surgery

Read more on WA Health website

Perthes’ disease

Perthes' disease is a disorder of the hip joint in children. Perthes' disease usually affects children between the ages of three and eleven years. It is more common in boys than in girls. In the majority of children, only one hip is affected

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

DDH occurs when a baby’s hip joint does not grow normally. The ball at the top of the thighbone (called the femoral head) is not in the right place. It should be in the cup-shaped socket of the pelvis (called the acetabulum).

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Spina Bifida - Role of the treating team: Physiotherapy | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback