Blisters

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First aid: Blisters

If a blister isn't too painful, try to keep it intact. Unbroken skin over a blister provides a natural barrier to bacteria and decreases the risk of infection. Cover a small blister with an adhesive bandage, and cover a large one with a porous, plastic-coated gauze pad that absorbs moisture and allows the wound to breathe. If you're allergic to the adhesive used in some tape, use paper tape.

Don't puncture a blister unless it's painful or prevents you from walking or using one of your hands. If you have diabetes or poor circulation, call your doctor before considering the self-care measures below.

How to drain a blister
To relieve blister-related pain, drain the fluid while leaving the overlying skin intact. Here's how:

  • Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water.
  • Swab the blister with iodine or rubbing alcohol.
  • Sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.
  • Use the needle to puncture the blister. Aim for several spots near the blister's edge. Let the fluid drain, but leave the overlying skin in place.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the blister and cover with a bandage or gauze pad.
  • Cut away all the dead skin after several days, using tweezers and scissors sterilized with rubbing alcohol. Apply more ointment and a bandage.

Call your doctor if you see signs of infection around a blister — pus, redness, increasing pain or warm skin.

Blister prevention
To prevent a blister, use gloves, socks, a bandage or similar protective covering over the area being rubbed. Special athletic socks are available that have extra padding in critical areas. You might also try attaching moleskin to the inside of your shoe where it might rub, such as at the heel.

Last Updated: 2012-02-17
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