Many of us will have experienced a blister at some point or other in our lives. They can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, to say the least, and in some cases require urgent medical attention. But, most of the time, you can treat and take care of them yourself to ensure they don’t get infected and heal swiftly with minimum discomfort.
What are blisters and how do you get them?
Blisters are pockets of fluid that form between the skin’s upper layers (the epidermis) and the lower layers (the dermis). This fluid bubble appears when the skin is aggravated. Similar to bubble wrap, it works to cushion and protect the fragile dermis from further damage. You normally get blisters from wearing tight-fitting shoes (which rub away at the skin) or if your skin comes into contact with a very hot or cold surface, causing a burn or frostbite injury. Blisters can also form in response to an infection or an allergic reaction.
A fairly mild blister will be filled with clear fluid, whereas blood blisters will be red or black, and a severely infected type are full of green or yellow pus. If you think you have a blister that is infected or is giving you a lot of pain and discomfort, you should see a doctor immediately. If a blister appears on your eyelids, mouth or genitals, or if several blisters have suddenly appeared for no reason, you should also seek medical advice.
How to treat and care for blisters
Most blisters should take about a week to heal on their own. There are ways to treat them so they’re not causing you too much discomfort in the meantime. The main thing to remember is to not break the skin on top and cause it to burst. The skin underneath is very vulnerable and tender and bursting a blister can lead to a lot more pain and possible infection.
To prevent the blister accidentally bursting, (e.g. if it’s on your foot and your shoes are rubbing against it) make sure it’s covered with sufficient padding such as a plaster or bandage so the skin doesn’t get broken. Try to avoid wearing any shoes that don’t fit properly until any blisters on your feet have healed. If it does burst, make sure all the fluid has drained and cover it with antiseptic cream, a dressing or plaster – so it doesn’t get aggravated further. See a doctor if it becomes painful and inflamed.
How to prevent blisters
To avoid getting blisters in future, make sure you wear shoes that fit properly and are comfortable, and always wear socks if you can (especially for sports). If you buy new shoes, start off wearing them infrequently – or with thick socks – until you have broken them in. Wear protective gloves when using tools or using gym equipment, and oven gloves when you’re transferring dishes to and from a hot oven. Lastly, make sure you wear insect repellent in areas where you’re likely to get bitten, as insect bites can also result in blisters.
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