Blisters: Causes and Treatment
Blisters vary by size
- Small blisters are called vesicles
- Large blisters (those larger than half an inch) are called bullae
What's a blister?
A blister occurs when there is damage or friction to the top layers of the skin. When any damage occurs, a small pocket of clear fluid known as serum or plasma develops. This fluid leaks in from surrounding tissue in reaction to the offending cause or damage. If the blister is unopened the serum or plasma can provide a natural barrier to the damaged skin beneath it until it heals.
Most blisters are caused from repetitive friction or rubbing, pinching, sports, tight or new shoes, chemicals, freezing, burning, allergies, medications, and infections. Blood or puss filled blisters can become infected if proper care is not maintained during healing.
Blisters can occur anywhere on the body, but mainly appear on the hands and feet. Infections that cause blisters can include staph, impetigo, herpes, and MSRA staph. These types of blister infections should be treated by a physician as soon as possible, as well as severe burns or chemical burns.
An ounce of prevention
Here are some ways to avoid getting blisters
- Wear gloves. For jobs you occasionally do, using gloves can prevent blisters from forming. Some tasks that commonly cause blisters are yard care maintenance: raking, weed eating, and shoveling. In the kitchen use well made and maintained potholders when handling hot pans or plates. And don't hang out on the monkey bars for extended time when playing with your kids at the park!
- Break in new shoes wisely. New shoes or shoes that are to small and tight can cause blisters to appear. Buy shoes that fit properly. For new shoes use bandages, Vaseline, coconut oil, essential oils or deodorant on areas that are exposed to excessive friction, such as heels and pinkie toes. Also "thumb toes" as my son refers to the large toe. Deodorant will let fabric or shoes slide across the skin but not cause excessive friction.
If you must pop a blister, here are guidelines to follow:
- Wash your hands as well as the area of the blister.
- Gently squeeze the blister until it pops. This is not a pimple or zit so don't get carried away.
- If squeezing does not cause it to pop, use a sterilized needle or razor blade. Sterilize the needle or razor by putting the sharp edge in a candle or flame until it is red hot, then allow it to cool before use.
- If a flame is not available, sterilize your utensil with rubbing alcohol.
- Once the blister is drained, apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage. Do not remove the skin over a broken blister. The skin underneath requires this for protection until it is fully healed.
- If you see signs of infection, red or warm skin surrounding the blister, pus, or red streaks leading away from the blister, or if the fluid that comes out is yellow or white, you could have an infection and should see a physician.
- Try to avoid popping or puncturing the blister unless it is on the night of a full or new moon (see below for my grandmother's explanation).
Taking care of a blister
The best care for a blister is to leave it alone! Don't pop it. It's tempting, but that serum fluid is there for a reason and that reason is protection. Your skin will naturally flatten when the fluid is reabsorbed by the body and healing is accomplished.
My grandmother said that if you must pop a blister, do it on the night of a full moon or new moon when the gravitational pull is stronger, and use a small sterile needle, razor, or safety pin to puncture and drain the blister. An excess of gravity causes less pain, but it is unclear as to why. When the moon is full or new, it is also referred to as a spring tide. Spring tides, create a gravitational pull of the moon and sun combined. They occur when the sun, moon and earth are in a line. The gravitational force of the moon and the sun both contribute to the tides. They only occur during a new moon, or full moon.
So if you have a blister, and are nowhere near a full or new moon on the calendar, leave it alone. Placing a bandage over the blister is the best course of action when draining is not possible. If the blister has already popped or is an open wound, clean it with a mild anti-bacterial soap (such as dial, or hydrogen peroxide), bandage it, and let it heal. Keep it clean and use Neosporin or other antibacterial ointment if necessary.
Aftercare for a blister
- Rest and avoid activity that may irritate the blister, or area surrounding it. If shoes caused the blister, try a different pair until the blister heals.
- Keep it bandaged, popped or not.
- Avoid popping whenever possible.
- Apply vitamin E oil to the skin to expedite healing.
- Use diaper rash cream with zinc oxide on the blister, this will dry the area out as well as help prevent infection.
- Use white toothpaste, which has the same effect as diaper rash cream with zinc oxide.
- Use tea tree oil, beware of burning if the blister is open.
- Apply Aloe Vera gel to sooth painful or irritated skin.
- Apply black, green or chamomile tea bags to the blister to help with inflammation, pain or swelling.
- Take a nice warm bath with Epsom salts to help comfort your blister. This will also help reduce swelling by encouraging it to drain naturally on its own. If the blister is already popped, avoid baths because this could cause stinging.
- Swab the area with apple cider vinegar, this is a natural antibacterial. Again, this will also sting if the blister is open.
© 2014 Rebecca