How to Swim with a Cast: Tips for Protecting Your Cast While Swimming

kid with a plaster cast sitting near swimming pool
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Whether you're an avid swimmer, surfer, or just enjoy taking a dip on a hot day, water activities provide a great way to cool down and have some fun in the summer sun. But if you have a cast on your arm or leg, joining in on the pool party can be challenging. Wearing a cast can be incredibly frustrating for active people who suddenly find themselves sidelined from their favorite activities. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to enjoy water sports, even with a broken bone. With a bit of preparation, you can keep your cast safe and dry while enjoying a refreshing swim. 

In this article, we'll go over tips on protecting your cast while swimming and discuss what to do if your plaster or fiberglass cast gets wet. We'll also provide information about a new waterproof cast option available that allows you to completely submerge your cast in water without any complications.

Can You Go Swimming With a Cast?  

While it is technically possible to swim with a cast, it is generally not recommended. If your cast is made from plaster or fiberglass, swimming with it is not encouraged. These materials are porous and can become soggy and heavy when wet, making swimming difficult and even dangerous. Wet casts are also more likely to harbor bacteria, which can lead to skin infections. In addition, water can damage the cast material and cause it to break down prematurely. For these reasons, people with casts are advised to avoid swimming or other activities that involve getting the cast wet.

What Happens if Your Cast Gets Wet  

Man drying his fiberglass cast
Филипп Очеретный - stock.adobe

While it may not seem like a big deal, getting your cast wet can lead to some serious complications. When plaster and fiberglass casts get wet, the water can weaken the material and cause the cast to break. This can allow the bone to move out of place, which may delay healing and put you at risk for re-injury. 

What Happens if You Get a Plaster Cast Wet

Plaster casts are not waterproof, and they can start to fall apart when they get wet. Plaster casts are made of a mix of water and plaster of paris. When the plaster gets wet, it begins to dissolve and can loosen the fibers holding the cast together. This can cause the cast to misshapen and eventually collapse. If the cast begins to disintegrate, it may disrupt the healing process and leave you vulnerable to re-injury. As a result, it is important to keep plaster casts dry at all times.

Can You Get a Fiberglass Cast Wet? 

While fiberglass casts are much more water-resistant than plaster casts, they are not completely waterproof and can become compromised if they get wet. The outer layer of the cast is waterproof, but the soft padding underneath is not. The moisture can cause the fibers to swell and loosen, leading to re-injury. In some cases, your doctor may be able to put a waterproof liner under the cast, which makes the entire cast waterproof. However, it is important to note that even with a waterproof liner, there is always a risk of water getting trapped and causing skin irritation. 

What Can Happen to Your Skin if Your Cast Gets Wet

Man wearing a plaster cast for broken arm
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Wet casts are not only uncomfortable, but they also increase the risk of skin irritation and dermatitis. When bacteria get trapped in moist, dark places like inside the cast, they can multiply quickly. The combination of trapped moisture and body heat creates the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Furthermore, dirt and dead skin cells provide a food source for bacteria, allowing them to grow even more rapidly. This can lead to unpleasant odors, itching, and rashes. In extreme cases, if the bacteria inside the cast comes into contact with an open wound, they can enter the bloodstream and cause a serious infection. Let's look at the potential complications of having a wet cast.

Skin Maceration

The moisture of a wet cast can cause the skin underneath the cast to become soft and weak. Over long periods, this can lead to skin maceration, a term used to describe the oversaturation of the skin due to prolonged exposure to moisture. This can cause the skin to become soft, wrinkled, and more susceptible to infection. Skin infections caused by maceration can progress rapidly, so it's important to take measures to prevent them.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are another potential complication of wet casts. These infections can develop when moisture is trapped in the fabric of the cast, providing an ideal environment for fungus to grow. While most fungal infections are relatively harmless, they can cause itchiness and irritation. In rare cases, they can also lead to more serious infections. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any redness or irritation developing under the cast.

Mold and Mildew

Wet casts are more likely to develop mold and mildew. These organisms can cause skin irritation, and they can also damage the fabric of your cast. If you notice any mold or mildew on your cast, it's important to contact a medical professional as soon as possible to help you determine whether you need to have the cast replaced.

If you have a wet cast, you can use a hairdryer on the cool setting to help dry the inside of the cast. Contact your doctor if you're concerned about your skin under your plaster or fiberglass cast. 

How Do You Protect a Cast While Swimming?

Young boy wearing cast cover in the swimming pool
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It's hot out and you're dying to cool off with a dip in the pool. If the water is calling and you absolutely must swim with a cast, here are some ways to keep your traditional cast dry. 

Cast Covers for Swimming

One way to keep your cast dry is to wear a waterproof cast cover. Cast covers are made from durable, water-resistant material, designed to slip over the arm and create a tight seal that is impervious to water. While covers can effectively keep casts dry, it's important to use them correctly. 

There are many different types of waterproof covers available, but they all serve one primary purpose—keeping water away from your cast. When choosing a cover, it is important to ensure it is made from waterproof material and fits snugly over your cast. Most cast covers are reusable and can be found at pharmacies or medical supply stores. Be sure the cast cover is large enough to fit over the cast and any padding. 

Can You Swim With a Cast Cover?

Many people are surprised to learn that you can swim with a cast cover. There are many different types of cast covers available that will allow you to submerge your cast underwater safely. Be sure to consult with your doctor first to ensure that it's safe for you to do so. 

Most covers are made from durable, water-resistant materials that keep your cast dry and protected, even while in the swimming pool. These covers are designed to seal around the cast, keeping water out and allowing the injured person to enjoy a dip in the pool. Of course, it is important to be cautious when using a cast cover. Be sure to check the seal regularly to make sure that it hasn't come loose or broken. Otherwise, you run the risk of flooding the cover and getting your cast wet. 

Is There a Cast You Can Swim With? 

Boy in swimming pool with waterproof cast alternative

If you want to swim without worrying about your cast getting wet, you might be relieved to find out there is a waterproof cast alternative available that is specifically designed to be completely submerged in water without any complications. Cast21 has developed the next generation of cast alternatives made from waterproof material that won't absorb water or become heavy when wet. 

The secret is in the open lattice design, allowing water to flow freely around the limb. This same principle allows water to evaporate quickly, keeping the skin dry and preventing excessive moisture build-up. Plus, the comfortable lining ensures you'll never have to suffer through an itchy, scratchy cast again. 

Doctors are praising Cast21 for its ability to provide patients with the support they need while still allowing them to enjoy their favorite activities. If you're looking for a way to stay active during your recovery, the Cast21 alternative is worth considering. 

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