The worst thing about having to wear a cast is that you cannot get it wet because plaster is not waterproof.
You have to keep it dry at all times otherwise you run into trouble. Within this article, we are going to look at things you can buy, or use, in order to make your cast waterproof.
There are different ways you can waterproof your cast temporarily so you may go swimming.
But these methods will rarely protect your cast long term.
You May Be Able To Request a Waterproof Cast
If you speak with your doctor, you may be able to arrange the use of a waterproof cast.
There are certain types of bone breaks and fractures where a waterproof cast may be used.
A waterproof cast may be more expensive, but worth the effort if you want to go swimming.
Buying a waterproof cast will help keep your limbs cleaner, and you won’t sweat as much into the cast, and you won’t have to deal with bad odors (or at least, the odors will not be as bad).
If you do get the waterproof cast wet when swimming, you will see there is a cover protecting the cast.
You will also see the water drain from the cast rather than soak in.
The padding inside will remain unbroken if the cast is subjected to water, so the cast still feels comfortable when you are dry.
The downside is that waterproof casts are only available for certain types of breaks/fractures, and they are considerably more expensive than regular casts.
If the waterproof cast breaks or becomes damaged, not all insurance plans will cover the cost to get it replaced or give your money back.
Also while your skin is waterproof, if it is broken from the injury, you will be advised to not wet the cast at all until the wound has healed to avoid causing an infection.
With all of this in mind, here is a brief ‘how-to’ guide for waterproofing both an arm cast and a leg cast for yourself.
Waterproofing An Arm Cast
- Purchase a cast cover that perfectly fits the measurements of your cast. These covers usually come in the form of a plastic sleeve that can be slid over the area that you need to waterproof. There is a plastic gasket attached to the cover that fits tightly against your skin and works to keep any offending water out. Some more expensive covers will also include a pump that sucks out any air inside the cover, creating a vacuum effect that makes it possible to go swimming with an airtight covering over your cast.
- If a dedicated cast cover is not available, the next best thing to try is a plastic bag and tape job. This is definitely more ‘rustic’, but when done properly it can still create a very waterproof covering. Find a garbage bag that fits the size of your cast and slide it up and over until everything is covered. Take a couple of thick rubber bands and place them at either end of the cast area to create a seal. These ends should then be taped around and around using a waterproof tape (preferably a waterproof tape that is safe to use on skin) to complete the water-resistant seal.
- In a desperate situation, something like plain plastic wrap will be able to provide some waterproofing for a cast, but this is not necessarily foolproof. Taking adhesive quality plastic wrap and circling it over and over the cast will certainly provide some protection, with tape on either end to achieve a better seal. Be aware, though, that spending extended time in water with a plastic wrap cover is likely to see a leak occur at some point.
Be aware covering your cast with a waterproof bandage is unlikely to work.
Waterproofing A Leg Cast
- Purchase a dedicated cast cover that is designed with shape and contours of a leg in mind.
- The long sleeves of cast covers will be available in a variety of different sizes, and it is important to make sure that you choose a length that is right for your own height and dimensions of your cast. The biggest benefit of these cast covers is that they are far less likely to suffer tearing from your movement in the water.
- A cheaper alternative, again, would be to make use of a standard kitchen garbage bag. These bags are more than large enough to fit a leg, and you are only required to use a lot of waterproof tape at the top end of the cover, and you do not require your foot or toes to be outside of the covering. A good quality rubbish bag is able to take a lot of damage before it finally tears and becomes a leak risk.
- Plastic wrap is once again an option, but this is less likely to be successful on a large leg cast compared to an arm cast.
- Regardless of the method that you choose to use for a leg cast, something that is very important to remember is to place a towel around the top opening of the cast and cover when not actually in the swimming pool. Wrapping a bath towel around the top of your leg can help to prevent any stray water from making its way into the entrance of the cast. This is very important, as water leaking into the top of the cast can cause a lot of irritation and lead to things like skin infections if you aren’t able to take it off anytime soon.
Now that you have read through our how-to guides for both an arm and a leg cast, we hope that you have a better idea of what to do and what not to do.
To help you even further with making a decision about cast coverings here is some more information about the various advantages and disadvantages of the various methods.
Waterproof Covers For Casts
Wrapping a plastic bag around your cast doesn’t work very well if you are swimming.
It may be a temporary solution if you are taking a shower or bath, but swimming requires movement, and water always gets in and ruins your cast if you are only wearing a bag.
There are waterproof covers you can buy that will protect your cast from water.
Covers are available for casts around legs, arms and elbows. You can get a waterproof cover in different sizes that vary from adult size to child sizes.
The cover you wear is very waterproof, and is watertight, and can be used for when you go to the beach, swimming, having a bath, and when you have a shower.
A cover is suitable for dressings and plaster casts, the protector is reusable, and can be used for post-surgery injuries too.
Specially-made covers are often soft and comfortable and won’t stop the circulation around the area where you are using it.
The only downsides to these covers are that finding the right size is often tricky, and many of them have latex in them (which may cause allergies in some people).
A Waterproof Vacuum Sealed Cast Cover
This is another version of a plaster cast cover.
It uses high-quality medical rubber and uses vacuum methods to help keep the rubber pressed securely against your skin.
The seal it creates helps to keep water out of the cover, and ergo keep your cast dry.
If you are flexible and/or looking for a wider range of movement, then some sort of vacuum-sealed cast is probably better for you.
This is because they stick to your skin very well, meaning you can move around without creating breaks in the seal between your skin and the cover.
The cast cover is reusable and many are created just for children, which means finding child sizes is easier.
The only downside with this type of cast cover is that they are more easily ripped by sharp edges.
Even your own cast can rip these covers if your cast has sharp edges that have not been smoothed out or sanded down correctly.
What Not To Do
Firstly, consider “Not” swimming at all.
You may feel great, but even something as simple as moving a limb underwater puts pressure on your skeleton.
Even people healed breaks can sometimes feel uncomfortable swimming because of the pressure it puts on their old break.
Secondly, do not wrap your cast in cling film, and especially do not use sellotape (sticky tape) or duct tape.
It keeps the water out for a short while, but it doesn’t take very long for a submerged cast to get wet if you are not using a proper cast cover.
Finally, do not try to paint any sort of sealant or varnish over your cast in order to protect it because it will not keep your cast dry.
If your cast gets a little wet, you may be able to dry it with a hair drier.
However, if your cast gets very wet, you may have to consult a doctor and even have it re-cast.