Love them or hate them, feet cause an awful lot of bother, especially if you lead an active life. Even with the best fitting shoes, you can still find you sometimes end up with a blister, particularly if your feet and socks have been wet or you’ve gone further than you usually would. What’s the best way to treat blisters? Should you pop blisters? Should you cover them up? Let’s consider what blisters actually are so we can decide what best to do with them.
The top layer of our skin is called the epidermis and blisters form in or just under it when skin is damaged. The damage can be caused in a number of ways, most commonly due to friction created by rubbing but it can also be caused by extreme heat, cold or chemical damage.
If you’ve ever popped a blister, you’ll probably have seen a watery fluid seep out, this is called serum. Sometimes a blister can be filled with pus or blood instead. But should you pop them? Is letting that fluid out of a blister the best thing to do?
I am most definitely from the ‘non-popping’ camp. Whilst that skin overlying the blister is intact, the contents within it are sterile (germ free). As soon as you make a hole in the blister, even if it’s only a tiny one, there is the potential for infection to get in. That fluid also acts as a cushion to the delicate skin at the base of the blister. That skin is not yet ready to be your top layer skin and it needs protecting until it is.
If you leave the blister well alone, it will shrivel and heal of its own accord. In the meantime, you can cover it with a plaster or padded dressing.
If you’re in a situation where the pain from a blister is intense and you still need to keep moving (I’m talking half way across your desert ultra marathon) and padding is just not working, then there is an argument for popping a blister. If a blister has popped by itself, with pressure from your shoe, or you’ve intentionally popped it, then clean it with warm soapy water or soak it in some warm salty water, pat it dry and cover it with a sterile dressing. You can buy special hydrocolloid blister dressings for this exact situation – Compeed is my favourite (this is NOT a sponsored post). If the dressing falls off then clean the area again and put a new one on until the area is healing well.
It can take a few weeks for the most severe blisters to heal but usually you’re able to get up and running again within a few days.
If your blister is filled with green pus and/or you notice a redness spreading out from the blister site to the surrounding skin then your blister may be infected and you should see your practice nurse or GP.
The next Quick Question will be how to prevent blisters in the first place because, as always, prevention is better than cure.
There are more answers to questions like these and lots of health information to help you lead a happy and active life in my book Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health.
Disclaimer: I can’t give personal medical advice and as always with health advice, reading something online doesn’t replace seeing your doctor who knows your medical history and can assess you in person. So, if you are unsure then always seek the opinion of a health care professional.