Plaster casts are made up of a bandage and a hard covering, usually plaster of Paris. They allow broken bones in the arm or leg to heal by holding them in place, and usually need to stay on for between 4 and 12 weeks.
Taking good care of your cast will help ensure a better recovery.
Plaster cast care advice
Keep your arm or leg raised on a soft surface, such as a pillow, for as long as possible in the first few days. This will help any swelling to go down.
Don't get your plaster cast wet. This will weaken it, and your bone will no longer be properly supported.
It's possible to buy special covers for plaster casts to keep them dry when washing or bathing. Ask your local pharmacist for more information. Don't try to use plastic bags, bin liners, cling film or similar to keep the cast dry, as these are not reliable methods.
If your cast gets wet, contact your hospital or minor injuries unit for advice as soon as possible.
Always remove any covering as soon as you can to avoid causing sweating, which could also damage the cast.
Even if the plaster cast makes your skin feel very itchy, don't poke anything underneath it. This could cause a nasty sore and lead to infection.
Do not walk on a cast unless you have been told it is safe to do so and have been given a plaster shoe.
The itchiness should settle down after a few days.
More plaster cast tips:
- exercise any joints that aren't covered by the cast – such as your elbow, knee, fingers or toes – to help improve your circulation
- avoid getting small objects, powders and sprays inside your cast, as they could irritate your skin
- don't try to alter the length or position of your cast
- don't lift anything heavy or drive until the cast has been removed
- use crutches or a sling as advised by your health professional
- use painkillers if you experience any pain
- you can usually return to school or work with a cast, but you should avoid strenuous activities that may damage the broken bone or cast
Plaster cast problems
You should contact your local hospital or minor injuries unit for advice if:
- your plaster cast still feels too tight after keeping it elevated for 24 hours
- you experience persistent itching or a burning sensation under the cast
- your fingers or toes on the affected limb feel swollen, tingly, painful (even after taking painkillers) or numb
- your fingers or toes turn blue or white
- your cast feels too loose
- your cast is broken or cracked
- the skin underneath or around the edge of your cast feels sore
- there is an unpleasant smell or discharge coming from your cast
You can also call NHS 111 for 24-hour advice.
Page last reviewed: 26 March 2018
Next review due: 26 March 2021