Popping blisters isn’t for amateurs. Even if your stomach is up for the challenge, should runners pop blisters when they occur? Does popping a blister expedite healing or does it leave you vulnerable to infection? Let us explore…
What is a blister?
A blister is a small collection of fluid that forms under the outer layers of your skin. One might be surprised to learn that there are many different reasons a blister can develop.
- Extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
- Chemical burns
- Medical conditions/diseases
For runners, it is typically friction that causes blisters. This friction can be caused by wearing the wrong shoe or sock sizes, changes in terrain (trail running), improper running technique, running in the rain, or even running in extreme heat.
So should you pop it?
Typically popping any fluid-filled blister can leave an open access for infection. Our bodies have many bacteria, good and bad, that live on our skin. These bacteria can be helpful in many ways on the outside of our skin but can be deadly if given the right opportunity.
Why would anyone consider popping a blister?
Though it’s best to avoid popping a blister, there are times you may be more tempted to. Sometimes the blister is large and painful. Most often, the blister is in a place that would cause additional trauma or inevitable rupture of the blister anyway. One may decide to pop the blister aseptically and with intention rather than waiting for it to burst on its own.
If you find that you must pop the blister, here are a few tips to prevent infection.
- Use a clean sterile object to puncture
- Clean your hands first
- Apply antibiotic cream
- Pay attention to what comes out (if it looks anything other than clear, notify a physician)
- Try not to remove the skin if you don’t have to
If you decide to pop the blister, make sure you continue to watch the site for signs of infection. These would include redness, swelling, drainage, fever, or increased pain. Bottom line. If you just aren’t sure what to do about the blister, consult a physician.
How can I prevent a blister?
Take care of your feet! If you have ever seen Forrest Gump, then you know Lt. Dan was right on the money when he said, “take care of your feet.”
- Careful selection of the right shoes and socks is crucial to blister prevention. Especially if switching brands or you are a first-time runner, choose a store with trained professionals. They can analyze your gait and streamline the process to find the perfect shoe.
- Choose socks that are made specifically to prevent blisters. Cotton socks may feel great, but they can retain moisture and create the perfect environment for blister development. If you are trail running or ultra running, changing your socks periodically throughout the run can help with blister prevention.
- Moisturize your feet. Dry skin can also contribute to blister development.
So should you pop a blister?
Blister popping is not recommended unless you absolutely can’t resist and feel the benefits outweigh the risks.
The takeaway message for popping blisters is that it could cause infection. If you find yourself having to, make sure you do it as cleanly as possible. Last, and most important — make sure you keep a close vigil for infection!