One of the frequent questions we receive here on MySkinCareConnection is about how to treat blisters. One member’s question about red bumps and blisters garnished over a hundred comments from others experiencing the same symptoms. In a previous post we elicited the expert advice of Dr. Lawrence Green, a practicing dermatologist, to answer member questions about blisters. The difficulty in answering questions about symptoms such as a blistery rash is that there can be many possible causes for the same symptoms. Blisters can be caused by insect bites, sunburn, or illness such as chicken pox or a virus called Herpes simplex.
If you are experiencing a skin reaction that you cannot explain, the best thing to do is make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist who has the expertise to diagnose and treat your condition.
In this post we are going to talk about common friction blisters, those you get on your feet from walking in new shoes or on your hands from chores such as raking or gardening.
One of the primary questions people have with regard to friction blisters is, "Should I pop my blister?"
In reviewing the literature on this I was surprised that the answer is not so obvious. There are some medical experts who advise you to leave your blister alone because popping it might increase the chance for infection. But there are some doctors and medical practitioners who say it is okay to pop your blister under the right conditions in order to relieve pain and discomfort.
For example, Dr. Oz, who hosts a popular TV medical show, says that it is okay to pop a friction blister but that we should pop this type of blister in the first 24-48 hours from when it develops. In this video he gives step by step instructions on how to safely pop your own blister. It is certainly not for the faint of heart.
The Mayo Clinic also suggests that it is acceptable to pop a blister if the blister is especially painful and is preventing you from walking or using one or both of your hands. But they do suggest that if the blister is not very painful that it is best to clean the area, cover it with a bandage and leave it alone. They warn that if you have diabetes or poor circulation that you should call your doctor to get some guidance on whether it is safe for you to lance your blister.
Other health experts such as those from the Virginia Hospital Center advise that you should not scratch, pop, or lance your blister. The reason they give is that puncturing the blister increases your chance for infection and will delay the healing process. Unbroken skin provides protection and acts as a barrier to bacteria.
So what is a patient to do?
Speaking as a patient, as I am not a doctor or a medical professional, I would be a little squeamish to pop my own blister. And I personally would be concerned about the risk of infection. If the blister is unusually large or painful, and is interfering with your day to day functioning, I would consult with a doctor. But I can see how some people would want to administer self-care if the blister is causing great discomfort and is ready to pop anyway.
General first aid for treating a blister includes washing the affected area with soap and water followed by covering the blister with a bandage or gauze pad taped in place.
For those brave souls who wish to pop your own blister here are some tips on how to proceed:
- You will need the following items: Rubbing alcohol, a needle, antibiotic ointment (make sure you are not allergic to your first aid cream), a bandage, and/or a gauze pad.
- Wash your hands, the blister, and surrounding area, with soap and water.
- Swab both your blister and your needle with the rubbing alcohol.
- Push the fluid in your blister to one end of the bubble and prick the blister horizontally, right at the edge of the most fluid filled part, two or three times. Allow the blister to drain. Try to keep the skin covering the blister intact.
- Apply your antibiotic cream to the punctured blister and cover the area with a gauze pad or a bandage.
- Check your blister periodically for any sign of swelling, redness, increasing warmth, puss or pain. These may be the signs of infection and you will need to call your doctor.
For more information about blisters or other skin related concerns please don’t hesitate to ask your question here on MySkinCareConnection. We always love to hear from you.