girl having cast applied to armFalling from the monkey bars, sliding into home base, tripping on a jump rope, knocking into a friend — there are literally thousands of ways to break arms and legs, and kids somehow find them all. Once the broken limb is healing in a cast, use these tips to help your child cope:

  • Keep it elevated. The day your child gets her cast, you can help reduce swelling and pain by using pillows to elevate your child’s arm or leg above her heart. Having her lie down on the couch or her bed will make elevation easier.
  • Treat the pain. Give your child pain medication as directed by his doctor.
  • Keep it dry. Keep the cast dry and don’t use lotions, oils or powder on the skin under it. It may be frustrating to sit on the side of the pool while her friends are swimming, but that cast can’t get wet. You’ll need to give your child sponge baths until the cast is removed, unless her doctor says otherwise.
  • Don’t use it as storage. Don’t let your child put anything down the cast. Place clothing or a trash bag over the cast so that toys, sand or bits of food can’t drop inside. If something does get in, try to remove it with your hand. If you can’t, call your doctor.
  • Keep it padded. Don’t pull out the cast padding, which protects your child’s skin from rubbing and prevents sores. If the cast edges are rough, put moleskin (which you can find at your local pharmacy) on them to protect tender skin.
  • Learn how to scratch. If your child complains of itching, use a blow dryer set on cool to blow air into the cast.
  • Take a time out. Don’t let your child ride a bike, roller skate, climb on a jungle gym or participate in other risky activities. Make sure the school teachers know your child’s limitations when it comes to recess time.
  • Hold crutches correctly. Tell your child to put most of his weight on the hand grips, instead of the parts that rest under the armpits. Walking or standing with his crutches up against his armpit can cause numbness and tingling in his fingers and hands.
  • Watch their steps. Monitor your child going up and down steps if her leg is in a cast. She may need help, or she may need to go up and down on her bottom.
  • Keep crutches in good repair. Check the crutches for loose screws or worn tips. Replace them if they look worn out.
  • Remove tripping hazards. Move throw rugs or furniture so that your child doesn’t trip.

Know when to call the doctor

Keep an eye on your child’s cast, fingers and toes. Call your child’s pediatrician if:

  • Your child has severe pain that medication doesn’t relieve
  • You see a change in the cast, such as cracking, softening or drainage
  • You smell a bad odor coming from the cast
  • His fingers or toes are cold, blue, gray or swollen
  • She feels numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes, or can’t move them
  • His fingers or toes have shifted position, or the cast is slipping off

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD