Have you ever experienced this? Your feet feel hot and sweaty inside that new pair of hiking boots, but you have quite a distance to go before you can rest. You ignore your discomfort until you begin to limp. By then it’s too late. You have developed a blister.
Or maybe the first day of spring yard work finds you using a push mower to cut the grass or loppers to trim away some overgrown branches. Your work didn’t take very long, but now in the places you gripped the tool your flesh is raised and squishy to the touch. This, too, is a blister.
Blisters, also known as bulla, are the skin’s way of protecting its deeper layers from bacteria. A blister is a layer of skin that rides atop a watery cushion of body fluids. If left alone, it would heal itself because the fluids would reabsorb into the tissues around it.
How should you care for a blister? If the blister is in an inconvenient place where it is likely to pop, you may puncture it yourself. To do this, you must use a sterile instrument like a needle and pierce the base of the blister in a few places. Don’t peel back the skin; you don’t want a large area of the underlying surface to come into contact with germs. Once the base is punctured, gently press down with sterile piece of gauze to drain the fluid. Use soap and water to thoroughly clean the area, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment, and cover it with another dry sterile gauze pad. Until the blister heals, the pad must remain clean so change it regularly. The signs of infection are drainage of pus or yellow liquid, red lines, or a ‘hot feel’ to the area around the wound. A doctor should examine the blistered skin if these signs are observed.
Of course, the best remedy for blisters is to prevent them from forming in the first place. Since they form from heat, moisture, or friction, anything that protects the hands and feet from these conditions should be considered. When doing yard work or using a pair of scissors for a long time, wear work gloves appropriate for the task.
Before wearing shoes for hours on end, make sure you break them in. The middle of a marathon or hike is the worst time to discover that your feet have developed friction ‘hot spots’ from your footwear. Proper size and width is very important. Would you rather be comfortable or stylish? Afternoon is the best time to go shopping for shoes. This is when your feet have swelled to their largest size. Try on both shoes and walk around the store in them. Did they feel comfortable as you walked, or were there places (like along the seams or heel) that seemed to rub?
To keep feet dry, pay attention to your socks. Remember that polyester or acrylic is preferable to cotton or wool. Some more expensive socks are specially made to wick moisture away from the feet. If you run or hike quite a bit these may well be worth the investment. Petroleum jelly or foot powder applied to the feet are also good preventatives.
Keep in mind that the best care for blisters begins with prevention before the blister-forming activity starts.