Whether small and painless or huge and itchy, blisters are always an annoyance. They’re most commonly found on the feet as a side-effect of too-tight shoes – although blisters can form almost anywhere on the body.
What is a blister?
A blister is a pocket of fluid which forms just under the top layers of skin. They’re usually rounded in appearance and slightly raised and ‘puffy’.
Blisters can appear:
- Clear – these are filled with plasma, a transparent fluid found in your blood
- Cloudy – these contain serum, also a component of your blood
- Bloody – these occur when blood from the injury seeps into the serum or plasma
- White/ yellow/ green – this could be a sign of infection. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.
A burst blister looks like a raw, red circular patch of skin, sometimes with a white flap of skin still attached.
What causes blisters?
Blisters usually develop in response to injury to the skin such as friction or pressure. This is why they can pop up on the feet in response to a stiff new pair of shoes or after a long walk.
Another common cause of blisters is burns, whether from a hot stove, straightening iron or chemical irritant.
Other causes of blisters include contact dermatitis, allergic reactions and insect bites.
Blisters themselves are not harmful – in fact they are a response to injury to the skin. Blisters are your skin’s way of cushioning the injury and sealing it off from bacteria or any external knocks or bumps which could cause further issues.
Though they may be unsightly, the round pocket of fluid is actually protecting the raw, delicate skin below.
Here’s our guide to help your blisters:
- Don’t pop it – the first thing to mention is that you should never pop a blister. This is because popping it will remove the protective cushion that your body has built around the injury. However, blisters often pop naturally, especially on the feet due to the wearing of shoes.
- Wash it – you only need to do this if the blister has popped. Wash the area with soap and water, before applying a large clean plaster or non-fluffy dressing. It might be tempting to trim the flap of skin which was covering the blister, but resist the urge. It’s still offering protection to the raw skin underneath.
- Cover it – if the blister is on your foot, you need to get an extra layer of protection over it with a padded blister plaster. This will prevent it from rubbing on socks and shoes and causing more damage to the skin.
The NHS recommends hydrocolloid dressing, which is impregnated with a gel which creates a ‘second-skin’ effect upon application.
Blisters on the hands might also need covering if they are at risk of being prematurely popped (such as if you are working with your hands). If the blister is anywhere else on the body, it’s best to leave it alone or seek advice from a healthcare professional.
How to avoid getting blisters in the first place?
Most blisters can be avoided by protecting your skin against the chafing which leads to them in the first place.
- Break in your new shoes gradually – you may be eager to wear those brand-new boots or summer sandals but you’re inviting blisters if you don’t take it slow. Wear them around the house for an hour or two at a time for a week, before you feel the material start to give and soften itself to the shape of your foot.
- Use protection – if you’re going to be on your feet all day, or heading out on a long walk, prep your feet in advance. You can buy special preventative blister plasters which are padded and ergonomically shaped for specific areas of the foot. Rubbing petroleum jelly or shaking baby powder on bony areas can help reduce rubbing. Thick socks can also help pad your feet and reduce chafing.
- Choose the right footwear – it goes without saying that your shoes should fit! Choosing quality shoes which have adequate heel and arch support also helps distribute your weight evenly over your soles, minimising pressure points.
- Oven mitts – avoid painful burn-related blisters on your hands. Invest in a thick pair of oven mitts to protect your hands while taking hot pots and trays out of the oven. Don’t try and use a tea towel, as they’re not thick enough and you can risk burning your hands through it.
- Heat-resistant gloves – if you regularly straighten or curl your hair with a hot tool, these are a must. Designed to protect your hands up to 250 degrees if you accidentally touch the metal plates
- Insect repellent – absolutely essential throughout the summer months, especially if you’re allergic to bug bites.
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Last updated: 5 May 2020