Blisters 3 min read

Preventing and treating blisters – tips from a Harley Street expert

Preventing and treating blisters – tips from a Harley Street expert Preventing and treating blisters – tips from a Harley Street expert Preventing and treating blisters – tips from a Harley Street expert

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world without blisters, where pain doesn’t take the shine off new shoes or sporting endeavor?

While we can’t promise you’ll never get another blister, Compeed spoke to Marion Yau*, a Harley Street Podiatrist and YouTuber, to help you better understand the main causes and provide you with tips on how best to prevent and manage them so you live your life moving freely.

Can you explain in simple terms why a blister occurs?

“A blister can be formed when fluid fills within the top layer of the skin. This can be caused by mechanical friction, tissue damage from burns, or from freezing temperatures. As well as allergic reactions and certain skin conditions such as fungal skin infections,” says Marion.

Blisters are a common complaint of runners, hikers and other outdoor activity enthusiasts, those wearing high heels and people sporting new footwear for the first time.

These blisters are caused by frictional forces where repetitive rubbing causes separation of the skin cells. In the space that this separation creates, fluid can form. Blisters are painful, and they can also cause infections like cellulitis.

What are the different types of blisters?

According to Marion, there are four main types of blisters.

  • Friction blister: Caused by friction and is usually filled with clear fluids
  • Blood blisters: Often caused by friction and trauma. This is when the blister is filled with blood. The colour of this may be black, dark red, purple, or brown.
  • Infected blisters: Filled with pus that can be yellow, white, or green they can also be identified by inflamed tissue that is red and swollen.
  • Burn blisters: Fluid-filled blisters that form as a result of a burn to the body.

All of these blisters may cause pain.

What are the most common causes of blisters?

“The most common causes of blisters are repetitive force or mechanical movements of an object or a material against the skin. This can happen anywhere on the body. Blisters can develop on the hands by sweeping the floor continuously for a long period of time. Cleaners may develop them,” says Marion.

“On the feet by wearing new footwear. New footwear materials may be too stiff and irritate the skin. As we walk or exercise, repetitive friction from the shoe to the skin may cause a blister,” she continues.

Moist skin – i.e. sweaty feet – is more likely to blister than very wet or very dry skin. Blisters are most common on the hands and feet.

Are there preventative measures that can be taken?

The preventative measures which can be taken to help prevent blisters include:

  • Reducing or stopping the repetitive force of friction that is causing the blisters.
  • Wearing socks with shoes as the socks will act as a barrier between the foot and shoes, therefore, protecting the skin. Some people find wearing two pairs of socks – one pair with low friction and one pair with high friction – beneficial.
  • Wearing comfortable and well-fitting shoes.
  • Gradually wearing your shoes in, until they feel comfortable.
  • Wearing gloves to protect your hands when working or exercising.
  • Taping or bandaging problem areas or using hydrocolloid plasters.

What should I do if I get a blister on my foot?

“As a Podiatrist, I recommend using a specialist plaster to protect the area. We can use a special dressing that contains hydrocolloids that can protect the area and reduce pain. If your blister becomes painful or becomes infected please see a Podiatrist or your GP,” says Marion.

How long will it take for a blister to heal?

“A blister may take a few days to several weeks to heal. It all depends on the blister’s size and depth. Using a hydrocolloid dressing can speed the healing process,” says Marion.

Blisters usually heal on their own and shouldn’t be too painful if the affected area isn’t rubbing on anything. They can, however, get infected, so speak to a doctor if you suspect infection.

Should I pop a blister?

“If the blister is very large, hurting, or infected then please see a professional. They may pop the blister and dress the area accordingly. They will keep the top layer of the skin intact, as the skin protects the blistered area. If you do not have any issue with the blister then it is recommended to leave it alone as the blister will get better by itself and the fluid will return back to the body and the skin will become flat. Popping it may increase the risk of infection in the area,” says Marion.

Ideally, you should leave the scab alone, cover it with a plaster and let it heal naturally. Painkillers can be used if the area is sore. Regularly changing your plaster and checking the area can help you catch any infections early. If you suspect an infection, talk to a healthcare professional.

How do I stop a blister from getting infected?

Prior to applying any blister plasters or dressings, you’re advised to clean and dry the wound with cool water and a clean cloth. This applies to both open blisters and those that have not been drained or popped.

“To stop a blister from getting an infection. Do not pop it if it doesn’t affect your walking, cause any pain, or it is infected. If it looks infected then go and see a Podiatrist, you may need some antibiotics, it may need to be drained and dressed,” says Marion.

*Marion Yau does not endorse any products or brands.