Should you pop a blister? What other treatment is needed? What is a normal blister, and what is a blood blister?
by Dr. Brant McCartan
With hot summer days come lots of outdoor activities that involve hours on your feet – Summerfest, anyone? The most common injury that many of us will suffer from walking, running, or hiking is a blister. Blister treatment remains controversial: to pop, or not to pop. Despite what Dr. Oz mentioned on his show (to pop every blister), I do not recommend popping every blister always.
If on a long race or hike, it may be better to avoid popping it until the end. Also, if the blister is small (less than half a centimeter) and not painful, the roof can serve as a biological dressing and a protectant from outside bacteria entering in. If, however, the blister is large or painful, it needs to be drained.
Wash your hands; sanitize the surrounding skin with alcohol. Sterilize a needle by either placing it in boiling water or alcohol. (Do not take it to a flame. The fire oxidizes the metal coating on the needle and can introduce carbon particulates into your skin.) Once this is done, apply aloe vera, tea tree oil or blister paste along with an absorbent compressive dressing to help soak up the drainage and decrease reformation.
If the blister becomes torn or deroofed during a run or long day out, stop and apply a hydrocolloid type dressing to help minimize infection and pain. After, apply an antiseptic cream and cover it with a band-aid or moleskin to help cushion and prevent infection. A hemorrhagic (blood) blister is caused by a ruptured capillary in the dermis signifying a deeper blister. It may take longer than five days to heal, but it should improve with local wound care and dressings. On the subsequent run – or long day of walking – offload the area by cutting out a hole in moleskin matching the shape of the blister, and apply it around – not on top of – the area.
This information is not meant as medical advice. It is provided solely for education. Our practice would be pleased to discuss your unique circumstances and needs as they relate to these topics.