You’ve Got a Blister! Pop it or Leave it?

Blisters can be a painful nuisance, but should you pop them or let them heal on their own? In general, it's best to leave them be, as unbroken skin acts as a natural barrier against infection. However, if a blister becomes large or painful, you can safely drain it. Learn the types of blisters, their causes, and when to pop them. Proper blister drainage is crucial to prevent infection. If your blister shows signs of infection, seek medical attention. Prevention is key, so wear well-fitting shoes, use protective gear, and follow these tips to keep those painful bubbles at bay.
bandaids on blue background

A blister is a pocket of fluid that develops between two layers of skin. Blisters can develop anywhere on the body, but most commonly develop on the hands and feet. Blisters can range in size from the size of a pencil eraser to bigger than a golf ball. Knowing the type of blister you have and determining the size will help you decide whether to pop the blister or leave it to heal on its own. So if you have a blister, should you pop it or leave it? In general, it is best to leave blisters to heal on their own because the unbroken skin over the blister provides a natural protective barrier against bacteria and decreases the risk for infection, but if a blister becomes too large or painful, you can safely drain it. Keep reading to find out the proper way to pop a blister!

Causes of Blisters

There are several types of blisters that have different causes and treatments. Understanding the types of blisters can help you, or your healthcare provider, determine the proper treatment.

Friction Blisters

Friction blisters are the most common type of blister. They develop from your skin rubbing against something for an extended period of time, like wearing shoes that do not fit well or neglecting to wear personal protective equipment. Generally, friction blisters should be left alone to heal on their own, but if the blister becomes large and painful, it may be a good idea to drain it.

Burn Blister

Second-degree burns can cause the skin to become blistered. Burn blisters require medical attention. This type of blister should not be popped or drained, except by a medical professional, as they are very prone to serious infection.

Excema Blister

Eczema, a condition that makes the skin red and itchy, can cause irritation that leads to the formation of a blister. In keeping with the condition, these blisters can be very itchy. If you have eczema and develop blisters because of the condition, seek help from your dermatologist.

Fever Blister

Fever blisters, also known as cold sores, develop around the mouth and are very contagious. Because of this, you should never pop or drain your fever blisters. They will heal on their own in one to two weeks by popping on their own and developing a scab-like protective barrier. To manage discomfort and prevent spreading, wash your hands often, avoid spicy or citrusy foods that can irritate the wound, and use cold-sore creams.

Blood Blister

Blood blisters are similar to friction blisters, but rather than being filled with a clear liquid, they are filled with blood. You should never pop a blood blister on your own.

How to Properly Drain a Blister

According to the Mayo Clinic, use the following steps to maintain safety and prevent infection when draining a large or painful blister.

  • Wash your hands and the area where the blister is. 
  • Wipe the blister with alcohol or iodine. 
  • Sterilize a needle with alcohol or iodine.
  • Make a small hole on one side of the blister near the edge. It will drain on its own. Try not to press on it and force it to drain faster.
  • Clean the area with antibacterial soap and warm water.
  • Apply an ointment like petroleum jelly.
  • Keep the second layer of skin on the blister for the first few days. This protects the wound from infection and promotes healing.
  • Cover with a bandage. Check the healing process every day and change the bandage.
  • After a few days, use sterilized scissors and tweezers to cut away the second layer of dead skin. Apply more ointment or anti-bacterial cream and cover the area with a bandage.

Signs of Infection

Always be on the lookout for the following signs of infection:

 

  • White, yellow, thick, or smelly fluid.
  • Redness.
  • Increased pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Pus drainage.
  • Fever.
  • Tenderness or heat around the blister. 

 

If your blister shows any signs of infection, reach out to a healthcare provider immediately!

Prevention

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the best blister care is prevention. Luckily, there are several simple ways that you can prevent blister formation. Use these tips to protect your feet and hands:

  • Wear proper-fitting shoes that are not too tight or too loose.
  • Wear sweat-wicking socks.
  • Use gloves or other protective equipment when using sports equipment or other handheld equipment.

How Can We Help?

Work Health Solutions offers comprehensive healthcare solutions for your medical needs. Our qualified team treats patients and employers alike and always provides top-quality service. Our quality service is backed by years of experience working with academic and research institutions, corporate healthcare, Fortune 25 companies, small government, and local businesses. Reach out today with any questions you may have about how we can assist you!

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Dr. Michael Tenison

A series of notable accomplishments distinguish Dr. Michael Tenison’s career in medical operations and healthcare management:

  • Successfully led medical operations at a national healthcare provider, focusing on optimizing healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.
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Dr. Matt Feeley

Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

  • Former Naval Flight Surgeon, exemplifying his expertise in aerospace medicine and commitment to military health.
  • Served with distinction at NSA Bahrain and HSM-37, earning the COMPACFLT Flight Surgeon of the Year award for exceptional medical service.
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Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
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Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
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Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
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