How to Care for a Foot Blister
For the past three years, my hubby and I have been lucky enough to go hiking in the Lake Superior region of Minnesota. Every year, I end up with at least three blisters on my feet—so I’ve gotten pretty good at caring for them. Here’s what I’ve learned.
What Are Blisters?
Blisters are bubbles of fluid between the top layer of skin and the lower layers. They’re the body’s way of protecting itself from further injury, because they form due to things like friction, burns, freezing or illness.
Usually, they’re filled with clear fluid, but sometimes they fill with blood. If they have puss in them, you’re dealing with an infection, and you should seek medical attention for it. The last thing you want is the infection to move into your blood stream. Because they have a tendency to get infected, blisters can be very tricky to treat.
If your blisters were formed by illness, frostbite, or burns, you may want to seek the help of a doctor to treat those issues. This article concentrates on friction blisters.
Do They All Need Treatment?
Not all blisters need extra attention. The less severe ones will heal without intervention and you’ll be left with a patch of peeling skin once they’re healed. Just put a small adhesive bandage over those to protect them from further rubbing, if you can’t switch shoes. They’ll usually heal up within the week.
The only time blisters should be popped or receive any other sort of treatment is if they cause pain due to pressure or if they break on their own.
You’ll need the following materials to treat more painful blisters:
- Antibacterial cream
- Lighter, hydrogen peroxide, or rubbing alcohol
- Q-tips or cotton balls
The most important thing to remember when treating your blisters is to avoid infection. If the blister had already burst on its own, clean it as soon as possible and apply antibacterial cream, like Neosporin, before putting a Band-Aid or two over it during the day.
If the blister is causing enough pressure to be painful, these are these steps have worked for me.
1. Sterilize needle or pin
Carefully heat the tip of the needle or pin with your lighter for about 10 seconds. I use this method while camping, because a lighter travels much more easily than bottles of liquid.
If you’re at home, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide is a better option. Drop the pin in a bottle or cup of rubbing alcohol, and shake for about 30 seconds, before carefully removing with clean hands. If you use hydrogen peroxide, just let the pin sit until it stops bubbling, or for a minimum of 30 seconds.
2. Puncture the blister
Be careful with this step. If you don’t have steady hands, or don’t think you can do it yourself, ask someone else to. I’ve found that slipping the pin into the blister from the side and keeping it parallel to the surface of the skin prevents the tip of the needle from contacting the lower layer of skin.
The fluid that comes out should be clear, and you can catch that with a clean tissue or piece of toilet paper. Once it stops coming out on its own, gently press down on the blister with a fingertip, until you get as much fluid out as possible.
If what comes out is white or yellowish, get to a doctor, because you’re dealing with some sort of infection. If you bleed, that means you’ve punctured the healthy tissue making up the floor of the blister, and you should watch for signs of infection.
3. Apply antibacterial cream
While you can apply the cream with your fingers, using something like a q-tip is more sterile and less messy.
4. Protect it
Once all is said and done, put a Band-Aid or other type of protective bandage on.
Puncture the Blister
Apply Antibacterial Cream
Whether the blister already broke before you could get to it, or you popped it yourself, the aftercare is the same. Keep the Band-Aids on during the day and either go barefoot or choose shoes which don’t rub the injury when you walk. If it’s in a spot you can’t avoid rubbing, like the pads of the toes or sides of the feet where sandal straps hit, wear socks when you wear shoes. Take the band aids off at night, so the blisters can dry out and continue healing.
Also, watch for increased redness, pain, and swelling. These are all signs of infection, and you’ll need to get medical care for those.
Part of what can make blisters on the feet so painful is that the area around them can get inflamed and painful, especially when it’s hot out. Once you’ve treated the blisters, and if you’ve put waterproof Band-Aids on, soaking your feet in cold water is extremely good at bringing swelling down. It’ll also help you cool off.
If that’s not an option, over the counter ibuprofen is also extremely helpful in killing the pain while bringing swelling down. As usual, drink lots of water, especially on hot, humid days.
The best way to deal with blisters is to avoid getting them to begin with. That’s all about choosing the right footwear. That includes wearing socks whenever you have hiking boots or sneakers. The right pair of socks will draw sweat away from your skin while protecting it from the inside of your shoes.
If you know you’ll be hiking rough terrain, hiking boots are the way to go, but before using your new pair, break them in. As you walk around in them before the trip, take note of where they rub. If wearing socks isn’t enough to stop the irritation, putting a Band-Aid over the spot of your foot or ankle will protect your skin from becoming irritated enough to blister.
If you have an older pair of hiking boots, replacing the original insole with a gel insert will do wonders. My boots are pretty old, and the original insole had worn out, which had contributed to my problems last year. This year, I replaced it with a gel insole and the blisters were far less severe than usual.
Finally, if you know you’ll be out for a long time, carry Band-Aids or blister cushions with you. As soon as you feel rubbing, take a break to put one on the spot. That will keep the blister from getting worse or forming in the first place.
For more ideas, take a look at the video I've provided. I fully intend to try that taping trick on the two toes prone to blistering the next time we go hiking.
Taking proper measures against getting them in the first place and taking the right care of them will help you enjoy yourself without the irritation of blisters.
Do you have any favorite blister remedies?
I tried this stuff for a recent hiking trip, and it worked extremely well for blisters I ordinarily get from shoe rubbing. It also greatly reduced the ones I get between my toes from structural issues of my feet. Great product.