Emergency First Aid : How to Treat Foot Blisters
Caring for Painful Foot Blisters
There are times you can pop them, and times when you should let them be. What's even more valuable to know: how to keep blisters from forming in the first place.
By Eric Metcalf, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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Tempted to pop that big bubble of a blister on your foot, but not sure if you should? Or, are you just wondering what you can do to help your blisters heal faster, prevent infection, and stop hurting?
Knowing the right steps to take when it comes to the care of your feet can help you heal a blister and prevent another one.
Blisters: Time to Pop
There are times when it’s okay for you to pop painful blisters to drain the fluid, help them heal, and help your feet feel better.
"If it's a small blister, you can disinfect the area and just pop it and let the fluid drain out. Just disinfect a needle or a pin and pop the blister," says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in Louisville, Ky. Or, "you can leave it intact and let the body reabsorb it. If they are very large blisters or if there is evidence of infection, you want to open the blister up and cleanse the area and treat it with a topical antibiotic."
Here are some details to help you properly pop and care for your blister:
- Use soap and water to thoroughly clean your hands and the blister. Then, clean off the blister with a little bit of rubbing alcohol or some iodine.
- Gently rub the blister to see if it will pop. If it does not, consider soaking the blister in warm water for 30 minues and gently rub again.
- Rub a little antibiotic ointment on the area, then put a bandage over it.
Blisters: When Not to Pop
The look of the sore, as well as the individual and cause, can determine the seriousness of a blister.
For a person with diabetes who has a blister on her foot, that situation could lead to a foot ulcer, even an infection, explains Timothy C. Ford, DPM, director of the podiatric residency program at Jewish Hospital and St. Mary's HealthCare in Louisville, Ky. If the blister is large enough to cause difficulty walking, that person should have it drained by a doctor.
“You want to make sure there's no infection going on and that it's not actually an ulceration that's down to the bone or something like that," adds Dr. Mauser. You need to see the doctor if it's "large or red, or really painful."
If you experience severe redness, swelling, soreness, pus, or even pain at the site of your blister, have it checked out by a doctor. It's probably gotten infected, and may need treatment with antibiotics to clear it up.
Blisters: Quick Fixes, Long-Term Care
While your blister heals, it's likely to still be sore. You can do things to keep yourself comfortable until the pain subsides, like putting some padding on the spot.
To prevent a blister from forming up again, make sure your shoes fit properly and are comfortable. A thick sock that provides extra padding in areas where blisters are common can also help keep your feet blister-free.
But if those blisters won’t stay away, surgery is an option. "If it's a recurrent thing and there is a bony prominence or deformity, you can fix that or remove it through surgery," says Mauser.
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