Infections can be expensive!
When my son was about 10 years old, he developed a nasty blister on his foot after a long hike in poorly-fitting shoes. I wasn’t aware of the blister until several days later when he came to me with what was obviously a badly infected sore between two of his toes.
I had to take him to the pediatrician to have the wound lanced (opened) and drained. He was then given a prescription for antibiotics (one of the expensive new ones, of course).
Altogether, that blister cost us about $300.
Not to mention my son’s misery. And to make his plight worse, he turned out to be allergic to that antibiotic and ended up with a roaring case of hives. But that’s another story.
To pop or not to pop?
Blisters can result from friction, a 2nd-degree burn, or a bug bite. One or more outer layers of skin separate from lower layers, and the resulting space fills with fluid or blood. Most of us have had small blisters on our palms or heels.
I’m always asked: “Is it OK to pop my blister?”
No and yes. It depends.
In general, don’t pop a blister. If the skin is intact, it prevents bacteria from getting into the wound. With most small blisters, the fluid is gradually reabsorbed and the wound heals on its own in a couple of days. Try to avoid re-injury.
If the blister starts leaking, even a tiny bit, bacteria can get into the wound. Then it’s better to open up the blister so that you can wash it well with soap and water to lessen the risk of infection.
I like to use a pair of nail scissors, sterilized with rubbing alcohol, to make a larger hole in the blister. Or you could use a needle, also sterilized with rubbing alcohol.
Keep it clean
It’s not uncommon for large blisters, more than an inch across, or blisters between your fingers or toes (like my son’s) to break on their own.
After washing with soap and water, apply a layer of antibiotic ointment. I’m not usually a fan of antibiotic ointment, because it isn’t strong enough to kill much bacteria, but the ointment helps reduce friction over the blister and prevent re-injury.
A bandage is usually not needed; wounds heal better when exposed to the air. But use a bandage if the wound might get dirty otherwise.
And as much as possible, keep the wound clean and dry. Blisters on the feet are difficult because bacteria thrive in sweaty socks and shoes!
If you are a diabetic with neuropathy in your feet, or have peripheral artery disease (PAD) with poor circulation in your feet, a blister on your foot is more likely to become infected, and you should consult your care provider.
Keep the family safe with these first aid products: