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Certain types of broken bones may require a cast. This holds the bone in place as it heals. While casts used to be made of plaster, nowadays most are made of fiberglass with a cotton layer underneath to protect your skin and keep you more comfortable.
It’s important to keep a cast as dry as possible. This means bathing can be difficult, and swimming is off-limits, so some people may be curious about waterproof casts or waterproof cast covers. While these may make some aspects of life with a cast easier, they come with drawbacks, as well.
Waterproof casts have a normal fiberglass outer layer, but instead of a cotton layer underneath, they have a special liner that doesn’t absorb water. This means it dries faster and can get wet without falling apart.
You can’t get a waterproof cast after surgery because of the higher infection risk. You also can’t get a waterproof cast right after your injury. You’ll have to wait a week or two until the swelling goes down.
You can shower or take a bath like normal in a waterproof cast, and even swim in a pool. However, it’s recommended that you still avoid swimming in the ocean or a pond, so debris doesn’t get in your cast. You’ll have to limit your time in all types of water.
Not only can you get a waterproof cast wet, but you actually need to. Getting the cast wet every day helps keep it clean and keeps it from irritating you. Just be sure to thoroughly wash the cast with clean water after bathing or swimming to remove soap or other substances.
Waterproof casts dry by evaporation, so you don’t need to do anything special to dry one after it gets wet. They usually dry quickly but can take longer, depending on your body temperature and the air temperature and humidity.
Waterproof cast pros
- They allow you to shower or take a bath without added prep time or having to cover your cast.
- Because the liner doesn’t stay wet, they’re less likely to smell bad and grow bacteria.
- They’re durable, so you may be able to do some sports you wouldn’t be able to do in a normal cast.
- Many people feel less sweaty than with a normal cast.
Waterproof cast cons
- They may not be covered by insurance.
- You’ll have to wait 1 to 2 weeks after your injury to get a waterproof cast put on, so you may need another type of cast or a splint first.
- An experienced technician needs to put on and remove the cast. Not all hospitals have this capacity.
- They can’t be used after you have surgery on a broken bone or if you have an open wound in the area.
Waterproof cast covers are usually made out of plastic or rubber. They go over your cast and can be snapped on or have a closure at the top. This outer layer keeps water from getting into your cast.
Waterproof cast cover pros
- They’re reusable.
- They can be used for any type of injury with a cast, even after surgery or if you have open wounds.
- You can start using one right after you get a cast.
- They may be cheaper, if a waterproof cast isn’t covered by insurance.
Waterproof cast cover cons
- They have to fit and be put on properly, or you risk your cast getting wet.
- Good ones can be expensive.
- Even a tiny hole can lead to your cast getting wet.
You can bathe in any type of cast, but a traditional fiberglass cast must be fully covered. Even if you do fully cover it, the cast shouldn’t be fully submerged underwater. This may be more difficult if you have a cast on your lower body.
A cast cover can make bathing with a traditional fiberglass cast easier because it takes some of the work out of covering your cast. However, you still should avoid fully submerging your cast, even with a waterproof cover.
You can bathe as normal with a waterproof cast. It doesn’t need to be covered and will dry fully. Just be sure to completely rinse your cast with clean water after bathing to get rid of any soap residue.
You should never go swimming in a traditional fiberglass cast, even if it’s covered. If you’re using a waterproof cover, you should still avoid fully submerging your cast. Small holes in the cast cover or an imperfect fit can cause the cast to get wet.
Waterproof casts can be fully submerged for swimming, but you should avoid the ocean or other bodies of water where debris might get in your cast.
It may be easier to swim if your cast is on your arm.
Want a waterproof cast or cast cover? Here’s how to get one.
A waterproof cast must be applied at your doctor’s office. Ask your doctor if they’re able to put on a waterproof cast. Not every hospital or doctor’s office has the materials or the expertise for these casts.
You likely will need to have a follow-up visit to get a waterproof cast. This visit will be 1 to 2 weeks after your injury when the swelling goes down.
Waterproof casts are less likely than normal casts to be covered by insurance and may be more expensive.
Waterproof cast cover
You can buy waterproof cast covers at drugstores, medical supply stores, and online. They may be anywhere from a few dollars to $50, depending on the material, size, and other features.
Getting a waterproof cover that comes in different sizes is best. If you don’t get the right size, your cast won’t be protected as well.
If a traditional fiberglass cast gets splashed by water, you can use a blow-dryer on a low or cool setting to dry it. Be sure to dry the cast as soon as possible after it gets wet.
If your cast gets very wet, call your doctor right away. Traditional fiberglass casts can be damaged by water. They can also cause significant skin irritation. If your cast needs to be replaced, this should be done within 24 hours after it gets wet.
A broken bone can limit your activity, especially if you need a cast. If you want to bathe like normal, ask your doctor about a waterproof cast. They can’t be used for every type of injury that needs a cast, but they may be the right option for you. If not, a waterproof cast cover is an option.