Getting your child comfortable in her cast after a broken arm is critical – it may be on the arm for six weeks. Cast padding is an important part of making sure the cast fits right and stays comfortable. Here’s what you need to know about cast padding.
One of the essential components of a child’s cast is the padding.
The padding protects your child’s skin from the fiberglass or plaster, which can irritate the skin. It also forms a barrier to heat and prevents burns when the cast is applied in the doctor’s office.
Lack of good padding is a common reason for cast problems. If the child takes the padding out, picks at it, or there’s just not enought to start with, the hard cast material can rub on the skin and cause irritation or even an infection.
Common types of cast padding
Two types of padding are commonly used. One is a cotton-like substance that is very soft (pictured above).
It’s easy to pull bits of the padding out of the cast at the edges. It’s all connected, so if your child does this, it may unravel large amounts of the padding, like pulling a sweater apart by pulling on a single thread.
Another type of cast padding is used for so-called water-proof casts. This type is more expensive but dries faster than the cotton type.
Depending on how your doctor wants casts put on, the assistant may use a stockinette right next to your child’s skin.
This is kind of like a thin sock that goes on the skin before the padding layer is put on. Some doctors put a single piece on the whole arm, others just put one piece around the upper arm and one piece down by the hand.
Other things to keep in mind
The best way to prevent the cast from rubbing is to add extra layers at the top end by the elbow or arm and down by the fingers.
Extra padding may also be added around the elbow, to prevent rubbing on the bony areas there.
If the padding gets wet, it will dry very slowly and can cause skin reaction and even skin damage if not caught in time. Tell your doctor right away if this happens so your child’s cast can be changed.
If the padding is restricting finger motion or just in the way or excessive, you can trim it carefully with scissors when you get home, but ask the staff at the office to do this before you leave if you notice it.
Allergic reactions are very rare in my experience, but still possible. Pain and discomfort in a cast should always be taken seriously, so don’t just assume nothing’s wrong. Sometimes the safest thing to do is just to take your child back to the doctor, remove the cast, and check the skin.