When someone comes into my office with a burn or any sort of ailment that generates a blister, I’m usually asked what the finest therapy is—particularly whether they should pop the blister or not.

blisters-walking

Over the years, I’ve developed some blister treatment rules. But first, I need to explain why just popping all blisters is not always a good idea.

Why a Blister Can Speed Healing

Blistering is one of our body’s natural healing processes. This is especially significant with deep burns (which heal slowly and are susceptible to infection).

The sterile protective layer of skin prevents infection. The blister fluid bathes the wound with nutrients, speeding up the healing process. An intact blister is, in fact, the ideal sterile bandage.

The ideal sterile dressing is an intact blister. However, if it bursts, be careful.

But … If a Blister Leaks …

A blister that is leaking, however—even a little amount—no longer remains sterile. Bacteria may pass through even the tiniest of gaps and grow in the same liquid that is so effective in nourishing the tissue. This can lead to an infection.

blisters

How to Prevent Friction Blisters

1. Always wear shoes that fit well.

2. If a shoe is rubbing on your skin, consider applying petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or duct tape to the inside of the shoe to smooth out any rough patches. Alternatively, try sticking the tape directly to your skin after cutting a hole in the tape to relieve strain off that area.

To prevent the fluid from seeping out, it’s typically best to open up the blister hole a bit (with sterile scissors or a hypodermic needle that has been under a hot flame long enough for the tip to become red; cool before using) and allow all of the fluid to drain. Then, clean the area and apply ointment and a dressing as you would with any other wound.

It’s not necessary to remove the whole blister because it can still protect the wounded area beneath it, but some of the blister skin may perish as time goes on. If this happens, trim away any dead flesh as required. Cleaning your scissors with alcohol or a povidone-iodine (Betadine) solution for 20 minutes will make them more sanitary if they’re not sterile.

When to Pop an Intact Blister

Blisters that are already leaking almost always start doing so, and it’s usually best to just pop them before they do. Then follow the same procedure as for leaky blisters. These blisters include:

  • Blisters on the palms, under the shoe area, and over joints.
  • Blisters with a diameter of more than 1 inch are examples of this. Because of their size, they’re difficult to keep intact.

However, keep in mind that these are only recommendations for treating blisters; they are not hard and fast rules. It is never necessary to pop or not. You or your doctor are the greatest judge in your case.

If you’ve been active and still have blisters, you might simply leave one of the above situations alone. However, if a questionable blister breaks before it heals (which is quite common), you should treat it as an open wound until it seals.

Photo credit: AndryFrench/Wikimedia Commons

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