How to care for a blister?Should You Pop A Blister?
Whoever gave blisters their name really bungled things; there's nothing blissful about them. Not only are they gross looking, but they also make walking uncomfortable (or impossible) and can sideline you from exercise. Blisters develop when friction or a burn damages the top layer of your skin. Fluid collects to protect the tender under layers from harm—like a little airbag beneath your skin. Blisters tend to show up anywhere skin is injured by rubbing; they're caused not just by your flats, but also by your pants chafing or your forearms rubbing on a carpet while you're in a plank position.
"Most blisters are inconsequential and will heal on their own," says Bryan Markinson, DPM, a podiatrist with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. But there are still things you can do to recover from a blister more quickly.
Stop Touching It
You're not a kid anymore who has to poke and prod every skin bubble, so leave your blister alone. The roof of a blister is sterile and protects the underlying skin from bacteria. If you pop it, you can introduce an infection, Markinson says. In addition to not touching it, be aware of the blister's location so you don't rupture it with a careless misstep.
Keep It Clean
You want to do all you can to prevent an infection, so use a gentle touch as you wash the blister daily with soap and water, recommends Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, a dermatologist with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center. Lipner says blistered skin is vulnerable skin, and keeping the area clean is one of your best defenses.
Control the Swelling
An angry, inflamed blister can make any activity painful or impossible. To speed the blister's recovery, apply ice to reduce the swelling (after you've washed the area), Lipner says. Ice will reduce the inflammation and help prevent the blister from ballooning, which will shorten your bounce-back time.
Cover It Up
A careless brush or poke may puncture your blister. To protect it from popping and becoming infected, cover it with a loose-fitting gauze pad or adhesive bandage, Lipner recommends. "You don't want it so tight that you'll apply unnecessary pressure," she says. "Tape it just enough so it won't slip off."
Sometimes It Needs Popping
If you have pain or your blister has already ballooned to the point that it's sure to pop, you'll need to drain it. Lipner says a visit to your doc is your safest option. "But if you can't make it to your doctor, there are ways to do it yourself," she says.
First, coat the blister in rubbing alcohol to prevent infection, and then puncture it at the edge with a sterile needle. Very gently push or squeeze the blister so that it drains from the opening you made. Once again, clean it with rubbing alcohol. Now rub Vaseline on the drained blister to keep it moist, and cover it with a bandage. Repeat the process of cleaning with rubbing alcohol, applying Vaseline, and bandaging it once or twice a day until it heals.
Time to Call a Doctor
Sometimes a blister is not just a blister. For example, if you can't figure out where your blisters are coming from, they could be related to diabetes or blood-circulation issues—and you need to see your doctor, Markinson says. Also, if your blister turns red, continues to swell, or the pain increases, it could be infected. That requires a doctor's prompt attention. Ditto if your blister seeps fluid for more than 5 days, Markinson adds.
Reducing friction is the key to preventing blisters, Markinson says. And one of the best ways to reduce friction is to reduce moisture. To do this, he recommends applying silicone pads for people with bunions or hammertoes, which are susceptible to rubbing. (You can find these pads at any drugstore.) Sprinkle baby powder or another moisture-gobbling agent onto your feet and between your toes before exercising. Markinson also suggests athletic socks designed to wick away moisture.
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