A cast, a big hard bandage, is used to protect and immobilize a broken or injured bone. The cast wraps around the broken area and needs to be removed by a doctor when the bone is healed. Depending on the age of the child and type of break or healing needed, a cast can be on for as little as 4 weeks or as long as 10 weeks. There are several different types of casts.
Plaster of Paris
A heavy white powder forms a thick paste that hardens quickly when mixed with water. Plaster of Paris casts are heavier than fiberglass casts and don’t hold up as well in water. They’re typically used when the strongest hold is needed to heal the broken bone.
These casts come in many bright colors and are lighter and cooler. The fiberglass, a type of moldable plastic, is water-resistant but the padding underneath is not – although the doctor might recommend a water-proof lining.
Elastic or Soft Material
These casts are similar to fiberglass but allow for more movement of the limbs inside the cast. Also, they can be removed without a cast saw, so they are usually used on a very young child. There’s not used to protect fractures, but can be used when limbs are healing from surgery.
Not all broken bones need casts, some heal better with a sling or special strap. Some finger and toe fractures that don’t involve the joint may help well with a splint or buddy tapping, where the injured finger is wrapped with the adjacent unaffected finger. When it is time to remove a cast, the doctor will use a small electric saw – although it may look and sound scary to your child, the process is actually quick and painless. The saw’s blade isn’t very sharp, it has a dull, rounded edge that vibrates from side to side. This vibration is strong enough to break apart the fiberglass or plaster – it might even tickle!
Once your child’s cast is off, the injured area will probably look and feel different. The skin could be pale, dry or flaky, and the hair will look darker. Remind your child that this is all temporary and that everything should be looking normal again soon.
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