Those expensive stilettos may have been the highlight of your outfit last night, but your feet are paying the price this morning. Painful blisters have sprung up, and now even your socks feel irritating and each step is excruciating.
Blisters are pockets of fluid in the skin that are commonly caused by friction, or rubbing of the skin for long periods of time. Hands and feet are most susceptible to blisters because they are the parts of the body most often used for repetitive motions, such as walking, running or operating machinery and tools. Luckily, most blisters are not serious and can be treated easily at home. Before you contemplate whether your boss will accept “blisters” as a valid reason to take a sick day, read on to figure out how to get rid of those painful blobs.
Common Causes of Blisters
- Friction caused by repetitive motion
- Sunburn or other types of burns
- Chemical exposure
- Bug bites
- Skin diseases such as eczema or dermatitis herpetiformis
- Viral infection
- Exposure to poison ivy or poison oak
- Medications such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, seizure medicines or topical medicines
Quick fix for blisters.
Blister plasters both treat blisters and prevent them from getting worse because they contain a substance called a hydrocolloid, which works to absorb the moisture that builds up in a blister and causes pain. Blister plasters are manufactured by companies like Dr. Scholl’s and Compeed, and they can be purchased over the counter at most drug stores or discount retailers.
Simple and Effective Ways to Treat Blisters
Do not touch the blister. Although it may seem like a simple solution, it’s best not to pop the blister yourself. Popping a blister can lead to infection. Let the blister be exposed to air as much as possible, as this will help it heal faster. Most blisters heal naturally within a few days.
If you must pop the blister, do it safely. Most large blisters will pop rather quickly on their own. However, if the blister is unbearable and you absolutely must drain it, be sure to follow these steps to avoid infection:
1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
2. Use a cotton ball to apply rubbing alcohol on the blister and on a clean needle.
3. Gently poke your blister with the needle and apply light pressure to push out the fluid.
4. Thoroughly clean the blister and surrounding area with soap and water and pat the area dry with gauze or a clean towel.
5. Apply antibiotic ointment to the blister.
6. Apply a loose bandage around the blister, being careful to position it so that the bandage serves as a “tent” over the blister and does not actually touch it.
Avoid the cause of the blister. Those stilettos that caused the blister on your big toe? Put them in the closet until the blister heals. The same goes for that video game controller that caused the blister on your thumb. It may seem obvious, but wearing the same item or doing the same activity that caused the blister in the first place will only impede the healing process.
Relieve itching with a cold washcloth or by soaking the blistered area. Do not scratch. As a blister heals, it can often become itchy and red. It’s natural to want to scratch an itch, but this will only make the itching, and your blister, worse. To relieve the itching, apply a cold washcloth to the blistered area or soak it directly in cold water.
Watch for signs of infection. In a few rare cases, blisters can cause serious infection. Symptoms to look out for include fever, increasing pain, yellow or green pus, and red streaks coming from the blister. If these symptoms persist, have the blister checked out by a doctor.
How to Prevent Blisters
Wear clothes and shoes that fit properly. Blisters are often caused by ill-fitting shoes or clothing. Select items that have a snug fit, but aren’t too tight. You should also look for breathable fabrics and items with few seams and flat stitching.
Wear gloves to protect your hands. The best way to prevent blisters on your hands is to wear gloves while doing repetitive motions such as golfing or gardening. The best gloves have a comfortable, snug fit and provide some sort of gripping on the palm and fingers.
Avoid moisture by promptly changing out of sweaty or wet clothes. Excess sweat or moisture can cause additional friction and increase your chances of developing a blister. It’s important to quickly change out of your sweaty shoes, clothes and socks after exercising. Also, use a towel to frequently wipe off your hands and equipment while doing repetitive activities such as playing tennis or lifting weights.
Apply powder to your feet to keep them dry. If you have excessively sweaty feet, you can use foot powder, talcum powder or cornstarch to help keep them dry. Dry your feet well after showering, and then apply the powder either directly to your feet or sprinkle it in your socks before putting them on. Gold Bond Medicated Powder is a brand you may want to consider.
Give your hands and feet a much-needed break. Ballerinas, long-distance runners and avid hikers often get blisters due to overuse of their feet, while tennis players, rowers and golfers repeatedly develop blisters on their hands. Take frequent breaks and try to take days off between workouts if you begin to develop blisters.
Natural Remedies for Relieving Blisters
Fresh air. The best blister remedy is also the easiest and the cheapest. Leaving a blister uncovered and exposed to air is the best way to speed up the healing process and prevent infection.
Lavender oil. Apply two drops of lavender oil to a piece of gauze and cover the blister with it to relieve some of the pain.
Petroleum jelly. Gently apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly over the blister. This will create a protective barrier over the blister to guard it from additional friction caused by shoes or tools.