As you watch the doctor place a cast on your toddler's newly broken arm, one of your first thoughts might be, "How am I ever going to keep this kid clean?" Bathing a toddler with a broken arm can be a challenge. Some casts are made to be dunked in water, but they can't be used with all types of broken bones. Plastic sleeves help keep non-waterproof casts dry, but they don't always keep the water out well. Wet casts can weaken and may also allow water to seep inside.
Waterproof casts may be the answer to a prayer for active kids, but you can't use them on all fractures. If your toddler has an unstable fracture, his doctor might prefer to use a traditional cast to decrease movement within the cast. If he's able to have a waterproof cast, you don't need to keep the cast out of the water; water will drain from under the cast after his bath. The downside of waterproof casts is the cost; they're more expensive and insurance generally doesn't cover the extra expense.
Covering the Cast With Plastic
Manufacturers make plastic sleeves that fit over a cast, but any plastic coverings you buy in the pharmacy might not fit snugly enough over your little one's broken arm to keep water out. You can use a food storage bag, garbage bag or the bag newspapers come in over the cast. Secure it with a hair scrunchie or large rubber band, but make sure you don't make it tight enough to cut off circulation. Check the bag first for holes; use a thicker rather than a thinner plastic bag for better protection. If the cast does get wet inside or out, dry it with a hair dryer set on "cool" and let your doctor know.
Keeping the Arm Out of the Water
If your little person is old enough to reason with, you can tell him to keep the cast out of the water while you give him a quick tub bath. But if your toddler isn't old enough to understand that concept, the chances of getting him to listen to reason are slim. Sponge baths are the best way to ensure the cast stays dry if he's under the age of reason.
Wet casts are not only uncomfortable -- they can also be unsafe. Water weakens a non-waterproof cast, which means it isn't protecting the bone from further injury as well as it should. A wet cast also can mean a wet arm inside the cast. Wet skin is more likely to break down, which can be an infection risk if Mr. Curiosity has poked anything down into his cast and scratched his arm in the process. A cast that gets excessively wet might have to be changed.