Blisters are fluid-filled sacs that appear on the skin as a result of friction. You may get them on your feet after walking around in shoes that are too tight, or on your hands after spending a day shoveling in the garden. This article provides information on treating your blister at home and knowing when to seek medical attention.
Wash the area. Clean the blister and the surrounding area with warm, soapy water. Make sure your hands are clean, too, since blisters can easily become infected.
Give it some air. Small, unbroken blisters will go away on their own after a few days. There’s no need to pop it or bandage it; just let it air out as much as you can.
- If the blister is on your foot, wear sandals or loose slippers around the house to give it time to heal.
- If the blister is on your hand, there’s no need to wear gloves or a bandage as long as you aren’t using your hands to do something that might cause the blister to break or get infected.
Protect it. When it’s time to leave the house, protect your blister to prevent it from popping and becoming infected. Use a donut moleskin bandage to cover it.
- If the blister is on your foot, wear socks and comfortable shoes – don’t make it worse by walking around in the shoes that caused the blister to begin with.
- If the blister is on your hand, wear gloves to protect it if you use your hands to wash dishes, do laundry or perform another task that might cause the blister to break. Don’t repeat the task that caused you to get the blister to begin with.
Disinfect it. After thoroughly washing the blister (and your hands) with warm, soapy water, disinfect the blister with rubbing alcohol or iodine. Dip a clean cotton ball into the disinfectant and apply it to the blister and the surrounding area.
Drain it. It’s better to drain large blisters instead of letting them pop on their own. Draining your own blister is a sanitary way to help it heal faster and reduce the pain you might feel from the swollen area.
- Disinfect a sewing needle by cleaning it with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
- Insert the needle into the side of the blister. You shouldn’t feel pain when you puncture the blister, since the skin bubble doesn’t contain nerves.
- Press the blister. Fluid should begin flowing from the puncture hole. Drain the blister completely by pressing it with your finger. Use a cotton ball to wipe away the fluid.
Do not remove the flap of skin. The deflated blister skin will protect the skin underneath from getting infected. There’s no need to tear or cut it off.
Apply an ointment. Use a cotton swab to apply polymyxin B or bacitracin antibiotic ointment to the area. This will prevent the wound from becoming infected and keep the bandage from sticking to your skin.
- Many people are allergic to antibiotic ointments. If the area becomes red and inflamed or itchy, discontinue use of the ointment.
- If you’re allergic to antibiotic ointment, you can use petroleum jelly to prevent the bandage from sticking to your skin. Make sure you use jelly from a new container; containers of jelly that have been used for other purposes might contain bacteria that can infect your wound.
Bandage the area. Use a Bandaid or gauze to loosely bandage the area, so it still gets a little air flow. Make sure the tape doesn’t touch the deflated blister.
- Change the bandage once a day, or every time it gets wet or dirty.
- Check the area when you change the bandage. It should heal within a week or so. If it looks swollen, red, or begins leaking pus, seek medical attention.
Go to the doctor if the blister gets infected. An infected blister can lead to bigger problems, so it’s best to have a doctor check it out and advise you on the proper treatment. He or she may clean and dress the area and give you a prescription for antibiotics. Signs of infection include the following:
- Red, itchy, swollen skin near the affected area.
- Yellow pus emerging from under the skin flap of the deflated blister.
- A rise in temperature around the infected area. It may be warm to the touch.
- Red streaks on the skin running from the infected area.
Seek immediate treatment if you experience serious symptoms. In rare cases, an infected blister can lead to bigger health problems. Seek immediate help if you have the following serious symptoms:
- A high fever.
- Chills, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- A wound that becomes crusty or discolored in appearance.