Wearing a Cast? Be Careful How You Scratch That Itch

Experts advise against using pencils, other items to ease the discomfort

WEDNESDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- Bouts of near-intolerable itching are a common problem for people who have to wear a cast for a broken bone, but you need to be careful how you scratch that itch, says an expert in the field.

"Never stick anything into your cast to scratch an itch. Never. I have had to remove casts to retrieve items ranging from pencils and chopsticks to forks and brushes," Dr. Paul Prinz, an orthopedic surgeon at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Maywood, Ill., said in a Loyola University Health System news release.

"The bone may be safely healed, but scratching techniques can cause skin infections and blood conditions that require additional medical care," he warned.

"The skin is very delicate and sensitive when it is protected by a cast and is very easy to injure," he added. "Objects can create wounds which may lead to infection."

Prinz offered a number of safe ways to deal with itchy skin beneath a cast.

"Gently use a hair dryer, set on a low and cool setting, to blow air between the cast and skin," he advised. "Don't use a warm setting as it may create moisture through condensation."

Other suggestions include: lightly tapping on the cast to create a gentle vibration; massaging the exposed skin around the cast; wrapping a watertight ice pack or a sealed bag of frozen vegetables on the outside of the cast to cool the itchy area; or asking your doctor if an over-the-counter antihistamine would help reduce the itching.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about casts and splints.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, April 7, 2011

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