Blisters often heal on their own without care. New skin will form underneath the affected area and the fluid is simply reabsorbed. But there are ways you can help the healing process and reduce the risk of infection.
- Understand the stages of blister healing to know how and when to protect the wound.
- Avoid popping or bursting the blister after the blister has formed. Keep it clean to help reduce your risk of infection.
- Use blister bandages or blister cushions to protect the wound while it heals.
In this article:
- Identify your blister stage
- How often should you change your bandages?
- Should you pop or burst a blister?
- General tips for friction blister treatment
Identify your blister’s stage
Once a blister has formed, the first thing you’ll need to do before starting friction blister care is to identify the stage of your blister. Take a close look at your blister roof. Is it intact, torn or deroofed?
If it’s intact
In order to prevent further damage, you will need to reduce friction or rubbing on the blister. Gently clean the area and apply a blister bandage. It’s recommended to apply a specialist blister cushion, like a hydrocolloid bandage, as opposed to an ordinary bandage. They’ll do a better job of protecting your blister because they securely seal the edge of the bandage to the skin and keeps the bandage in place to help prevent painful rubbing.
You will need to choose the right size of blister cushion. Depending on where your blister is located (toe, heel, etc.) you can also choose specially shaped bandages. These specialist blister cushions will provide better cushioning and therefore, in addition to providing instant pain relief, will effectively isolate the blister from the source of friction.
If your blister is torn or deroofed
Your blister may need an antiseptic to prevent infection. Even if you don’t have access to an antiseptic, rinse your blister with saline (salty) water or clean running water to cleanse the area.
Once this is done, the best course of action is to cover the drained blister with a clean bandage. In this instance hydrocolloid cushions are particularly well-suited. They can provide you with a better cushioning, thus alleviating pain in this highly sensitive area. They’ll create a protective and moist environment which will allow for faster healing of the blister. These bandages interact with your exposed blister base to stimulate healing from the outside-in, plus they are superior to ordinary bandages as they are cushioned, waterproof, and stay in place longer and create a necessary moist healing environment.
How often should you change your bandages?
If you are using ordinary bandages as part of your friction blister care, they need to be changed when they are visibly soiled with blister fluids, dirt or water from the environment (e.g. showering, rain, etc).
You may need to change your bandage anywhere between every hour to once a day but this may vary.
On the other hand, hydrocolloid blister bandages are waterproof, sweat-proof and may stay in place for several days.
For deroofed blisters, specialist blister cushions, like hydrocolloids, only need to be changed when they start to peel off, or when the white bubble formed by the blister fluids underneath the dressing reaches the edge of the cushion.
It’s perfectly fine to leave a hydrocolloid bandage on for several days. Keep your blister cushion in place until the edges start to lift. This could be up to several days. Don’t be tempted to remove them earlier to allow the blister time to heal.
Should you drain or pop a blister?
Although it was common practice not so long ago, blister drainage is not recommended anymore because it may increase the risk of infection and take longer for the blister to heal. If you can, avoid popping or bursting a blister wherever possible. The fluid-filled blister keeps the underlying skin clean, which helps prevent infection and promotes healing. Applying a cold or ice pack may temporarily help reduce discomfort. However, blisters can often be very painful, so using a specialist blister bandage like Compeed®, a hydrocolloid bandage, can help, because the cushioning relieves the pressure which reduces the pain.
However, if a blister is large, painful or likely to be further irritated, it could be better to drain it in order to relieve pain or prevent accidental tearing of the roof. It’s important to clean the wound with antiseptic or salt water to avoid infection. Once cleaned, using a blister cushion will help seal the wound to reduce the risk of further infection and help with the natural healing process.
If you’re concerned about possible infection, please consult a doctor. The signs of infection to look out for are:
- Pus: yellowish and thicker than normal blister fluid
- Increased pain, swelling, redness, warmth
- Red streaks extending from the blister (seek medical attention).
A quick summary of friction blister treatment
The primary goals of friction blister treatment should be to:
- Prevent expansion of the lesion
- Reduce discomfort
- Promote healing
- Prevent infection.
Using a blister cushion, like a hydrocolloid, helps blisters heal by absorbing the blister fluid. It helps the natural wound healing process by creating the optimal healing environment.
The main objective during friction blister treatment is to keep the blister intact for as long as possible, because the skin and fluid provides a natural protection against infection.
However, if pain persists or if infection is suspected, a physician should be consulted.
Healthline. How to Get Rid of a Blister. 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-a-blister#drain-it