Waterproof Casts for Swimming or Showering

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Orthopedics Fractures & Broken Bones Waterproof Casts for Swimming or Showering By Jonathan Cluett, MD Jonathan Cluett, MD LinkedIn Twitter Jonathan Cluett, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty training in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 30, 2022 Medically reviewed by Yaw Boachie-Adjei, MD Medically reviewed by Yaw Boachie-Adjei, MD LinkedIn Yaw Boachie-Adjei, MD, is a board-certified, double-fellowship Orthopedic Surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in Georgia. Learn about our Medical Expert Board Print The biggest nuisance with having to wear a cast is the need to keep it dry. You have to fuss with bags or a waterproof cover to take a bath or shower and swimming is definitely out of the question. However, for the right person and the right injury, you might be able to wear a waterproof cast instead. While traditional paddings for casts fall apart when they get wet, the waterproof option doesn’t. Going waterproof may seem like a logical choice that ends many frustrations of a broken arm or leg, but these casts aren’t perfect. Before you ask your healthcare provider to put a waterproof cast on you or your child, there are some things you need to know. Verywell / Cindy Chung Waterproof Cast Materials Waterproof cast materials are not really waterproof, they’re water-resistant. When a fiberglass cast is used with a waterproof cast liner, water can drain from the cast and the padding will remain intact. Before these waterproof and breathable paddings were developed, casts were padded with cotton. While cotton can be comfortable, it doesn’t tolerate water and tends to collect sweat and odors over time. Because of this, the only way to clean the extremity was to see the healthcare provider, have the cast removed, wash the skin, and get a new cast. Waterproof casts use synthetic materials like Gore-Tex which repel water while allowing water vapor to pass through. Even after bathing or swimming, a Gore-Tex liner can quickly siphon water from under the cast and air-dry within hours. The covering is no different from cotton-padded casts. Most healthcare providers have been using colorful fiberglass coverings to wrap casts for years. These are tougher than the more traditional plaster casts. Advantages You can swim, bathe, shower Less sweat Less odor Fewer skin problems Disadvantages Harder to apply Expensive Insurance may not cover Takes hours to dry Advantages In a study published in 2016, researchers compared cast liners made of cotton and Gore-Tex on 20 people with broken bones. The subjects ranged in age from 3 to 30, and each wore cotton liners through half of the healing process and Gore-Tex liners during the other half. Compared to cotton-lined casts, the waterproof options produced far less sweat and odor and, by doing so, kept the limb underneath cleaner. Because people could rinse the cast daily, they had a better experience overall with 75% strongly preferring the waterproof liner. Healthcare providers in the study noted fewer skin problems as well. Despite being more difficult to apply, the waterproof liner also got higher marks from the practitioners. The study also notes that there was no difference in pain, itching, or overall comfort between the two casts. The casts did not weigh any different, either. Overall, researchers concluded that waterproof liners show promise in reducing patient frustrations with casting. While they may not be perfect, this technology does have a good start for making casts more comfortable and easier to deal with. Disadvantages The biggest problem with waterproof casting material is that it’s expensive. Even more important is that some insurance companies will not cover it. Your healthcare provider’s office may not check on coverage, so you could be in for some sticker shock. While a Gore-Tex liner is able to wick moisture, it may take hours to do so. That’s why people with a compound fracture (in which the skin is broken) will be advised not to wet the cast until the wound is sufficiently healed. Even if the skin isn’t broken, it may feel like you’re wearing a wet sock as you wait for the liner to dry. Similarly, while you can swim with a waterproof cast, your healthcare providers may advise you not to go to the beach as sand and other debris can get trapped under the fibers. It may be better to stick to a swimming pool until you’re fully healed. Frequently Asked Questions What is waterproof cast? A waterproof cast is a fiberglass cast put over a waterproof cast liner. The cast is not actually waterproof, it is water-resistant. The cast can get wet and the water will drain from the cast, leaving the padding intact. What are waterproof casts made from? The outside of a waterproof cast is made from fiberglass. The inner padding is a synthetic material, such as Gore-Tex, which repels water while allowing water vapor to pass through. This allows the cast to be submerged in water without damage. How long does it take a waterproof cast to dry? A waterproof cast can take a few hours to air dry. While it is drying, it may feel like you are wearing a wet sock. To dry it faster, use a blowdryer on cool-air or fan-only settings. What are the benefits of a waterproof cast? The biggest benefit of a waterproof cast is that you can get it wet without destroying it. Another plus is that it causes less sweat and odor, and keeps the skin underneath the cast cleaner. This results in fewer skin problems. Because it is more breathable, a waterproof cast is generally more comfortable. However, there appears to be no difference in itching with a waterproof cast compared to a traditional cast. Can I swim in the ocean with a waterproof cast? Yes, you can go swimming in a waterproof cast. However, if you are going to the beach, it is recommended that you use a waterproof cast protector or cover the cast with a plastic bag and tape. This will prevent sand from getting inside the cast, which can be very uncomfortable. How to Properly Care for Your Cast 2 Sources Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Guillen PT, Fuller CB, Riedel BB, Wongworawat MD. A prospective randomized crossover study on the comparison of cotton versus waterproof cast liners. Hand (N Y). 2016;11(1):50-3. doi:10.1177/1558944715614853 Boston Children’s Hospital. Orthopedic center’s cast care and maintenance. Additional Reading Children’s Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates, LLP. Waterproof Casts. 2015. By Jonathan Cluett, MD Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men’s and women’s national soccer teams. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Medical Expert Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit

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