Blisters: Causes, Prevention & Treatment

BASIC

BLISTER CARE

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What Are Blisters?

A blister is simply a fluid-filled bump on the skin. While often uncomfortable and annoying, especially when they rub, they are the body’s way of protecting our skin from further damage.

The good news is they can be easily treated at home and may even be prevented if the proper precautions are taken.

Blisters typically come in three forms – friction, heat and blood blisters.1

What Causes Blisters?

Different blisters have different causes.

  • Blood blisters: Usually formed by pinching the skin, which breaks blood vessels in the injured area. The blood pools from the damaged vessel and forms a blister1

  • Friction blisters: Caused by repetitive rubbing. The damaged area fills with a clear fluid to protect the damaged skin while it heals. This is typically what causes blisters on your feet, as ill-fitting shoes rub against your skin. You may also get them on your hands from manual labor, such as digging1

  • Heat blisters: Formed by burns or sunburn, or frostbite. Blistering skin is part of a second-degree burn1

What Does a Blister Look Like?

They may vary in size, but all blisters look like bubbles forming under your skin.1 They’re usually filled with clear, watery fluid, but may be filled with blood in some cases.1

What Is The Fluid in a Blister?

The fluid inside a blister is called serum.2 It leaks from surrounding tissue when your skin is injured.2 The serum provides a natural protective barrier for the damaged skin beneath it, helping it heal.2

If a blister looks red or pink, that may be because it is filled with blood from a damaged blood vessel.1

What to Do with A Blister: Top Tips for Blister Treatment

Though it may be tempting, an important thing to remember is to avoid popping or bursting your blister.1 The liquid inside your blister helps to protect the damaged skin beneath, so popping it could disrupt the healing process.2

How to Treat a Blister

Whether you have blisters on your fingers, hands, feet or toes, the treatment process is usually similar. They’ll generally heal up on their own, but you can help the process along with a few simple tricks.1

Wash the area gently with a mild soap, but don't rub too hard as this could burst the blister1 or apply an antiseptic wash

Gently apply antibiotic cream or ointment to minimize the risk of infection1

Cover the blister with a bandage or gauze and change the dressing at least once a day to keep the wound clean1

If Your Blister Does Pop, You Should:

  • Gently wash the area with clean water3

  • Leave the flap of skin over the top of the blister unless it’s dirty, torn, or you can see pus underneath it3

  • Smooth the flap over the tender skin to stop it from catching on anything and protect the wound3

  • Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and a bandage3

  • Change the dressing once a day or when it gets wet or dirty3

What to Put on a Blister

Treatment for open blisters – Protect burst blisters with a secure bandage:

Treatment for blisters on fingers – Use a flexible bandage that will allow your fingers to move without disrupting your blister:

Treatment for blisters on feet – If you have a blister on your heel, a medium-sized or large blister patch will help prevent pain and discomfort from rubbing:

Treatment for blisters on toes – Cover your blister with a smaller patch that can wrap securely around your toes:

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How to Prevent Blisters

Preventing blisters usually requires a mixture of preparation and caution. Different techniques and products protect against different kinds of blister.1

How to Prevent Blisters on Soles of Feet

  • Make sure your shoes fit properly, so they’re not too tight, or your feet don't slide around inside them1

  • Wear socks to reduce rubbing1

  • Add insoles to give the balls of your feet more cushioning1

  • Break-in new shoes before wearing them for extended periods1

How to Prevent Blisters on Heels

  • Make sure your shoes fit and do not rub1

  • Wear in new shoes before wearing them for extended periods1

How to Prevent Blisters on Hands

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands if you plan on doing a lot of DIY work around the house or digging in the garden1

How to Prevent Blood Blisters

  • Stay alert when using tools that might pinch1

  • Wear gloves or protective clothing when working with pruners, strong pliers or other tools that can pinch1

How to Prevent Heat Blisters

  • Use sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun1

  • Take care with hot items or when working around a fire1

  • Wear weather-appropriate clothing, such as gloves and thermal socks, to avoid frostbite1


FAQs

How long does a blister take to heal?

Blisters typically heal on their own in a few days.1 Keeping blisters bandaged and wearing comfortable shoes if your feet are blistered will help the healing process.1

What does an infected blister look like?

If your blister becomes infected, you might notice the following changes:

  • Swelling and redness around the blister1

  • The skin around the blister becomes warm to touch1

  • Red streaks around the wound3

  • Increased drainage3

  • Milky-white pus inside or draining from the blister1,3

  • Increased pain1

Can I put cream on my blister?

Keeping the blister clean is key to helping it heal, whether it is broken or intact. Use an antibacterial cream or ointment such as NEOSPORIN® Antibiotic Ointment to help the wound heal and reduce the risk of infection.

How do you prevent blisters when running?

When you buy new running shoes, make sure they fit and don't pinch or rub the skin on your feet.1 Before heading out for your first run, break in your running shoes by wearing them around the house.1

Why shouldn’t you pop a blister?

Popping your blister can remove the protective layer of skin and fluid, leaving your wound more vulnerable to infection.1


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