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A blister is a pocket of fluid between two layers of skin. Blisters usually develop from something rubbing against your skin, but they can occur for other reasons, too. Most blisters are quite painful, even when they’re not a serious medical issue.
Most of the time, it’s a good idea to leave a blister be and let it heal on its own. Popping a blister is only appropriate in very specific cases. Generally, doing so risks introducing bacteria into the wound. If it’s safe to pop a blister, proper technique and hygiene are crucial to preventing infection.
This article will discuss when it might be appropriate to pop a blister, the safest procedure to use, and how to prevent a blister.
Should I Pop a Blister?
A large part of determining whether you should pop a blister is what caused the blister.
Friction blisters are some of the most common types of blisters. They occur due to physical rubbing. Blisters on the feet, for example, are often caused by shoes that are too tight or too loose.
You want to avoid popping a friction blister unless it’s very large and impeding your usual activities. As with other blisters, popping a friction blister increases your risk of bacterial infection.
Blisters are a natural bandage to protect the area that has been damaged. It is better to leave the blister alone so it and the skin beneath and around it can heal.
A second-degree burn can cause your skin to become red and blistered. While a small second-degree burn can sometimes be treated using first aid, a burn blister that covers a large area of skin requires medical treatment since it’s extremely prone to infection.
Avoid popping a burn blister, even a small one. You can introduce bacteria, which may lead to infection. If a burn blister pops on its own, remove the dead skin and keep the wound covered and moist. You can apply antibiotic ointment if you’re having trouble keeping the area moist.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) can cause irritation that leads to the formation of blisters. Blisters are also a symptom of some specific types of eczema. Dyshidrotic eczema, for example, causes very painful and itchy blisters, often on the hands and feet.
Because they’re intensely itchy, it can be difficult to avoid scratching them. But doing so is unwise since the opened blisters are vulnerable to infection.
Fever Blister or Cold Sore
You shouldn’t pop fever blisters, also known as oral herpes or cold sores. Because they're very contagious, you want to avoid touching them as much as possible so you don't spread the virus to other parts of your body or to other people.
They will break open on their own and eventually crust over and heal without any need for intervention on your part.
Other strategies for managing discomfort and preventing transmission include:
- Frequently washing your hands
- Avoiding foods that will irritate the wound, such as salty, acidic, or spicy foods
- Icing the painful area to numb it
- Using over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications
- Using cold sore creams
A blood blister is almost the same as a friction blister but instead being filled with clear fluid (called serum), the blister is filled with blood. Don't try to pop a blood blister. It will heal on its own. Piercing it can introduce bacteria into the wound and slow the healing process.
How to Safely Pop a Blister
If you have a very large friction blister that’s making it difficult to function, such as a massive blister on the back of your heel making it hard to walk, carefully popping and draining the blister can help ease pain and discomfort.
Steps to Safely Pop a Blister
To pop a blister:
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
- Carefully clean the area around the blister with mild soap and water. Then gently wipe the blister with alcohol or iodine and let it air dry.
- Sterilize a needle using rubbing alcohol or iodine.
- Gently pierce one side of the blister with the needle.
- Allow fluid to drain.
- Clean the area with antibacterial soap.
- Apply a lubricant such as petroleum jelly.
- Keep the skin on the blister to help protect the area during healing. Cover with a protective bandage.
To deal with smaller blisters, you can use store-bought moleskin or padded bandages to protect the area while the blister heals.
Whether your blister pops on its own or you decide to drain it yourself, keep an eye out for signs of infection.
How to Tell If a Blister Is Infected
When a blister is infected, you’ll notice the following signs:
- Increased pain
- Pus drainage
Call your healthcare provider if you think your blister is infected.
How to Speed Blister Healing
A blister, especially one on your feet, can literally stop you in your tracks. Most of the time, the best way to treat a blister is to leave it alone and let it heal on its own. This can take a week or more, depending on the size of the blister.
The more you touch, poke, and prod a blister, the more you’ll delay the healing process.
How to Prevent Blisters
Blister prevention, specifically in the case of friction blisters, involves:
- Making sure your shoes aren’t too tight or too loose
- Making sure your shoes are breathable
- Wearing sweat-wicking socks
- Not using sports equipment or other handheld equipment without gloves or protective gear
Most of the time, popping a blister is a bad idea. Doing so can introduce bacteria and cause an infection. If you have a very big blister that’s making it hard to function, it’s OK to pop and drain it. Just make sure to maintain proper hygiene. This includes washing your hands, using a sterilized needle, and cleaning the area afterward.
A Word From Verywell
It might be hard to resist popping a blister. But don’t do it unless you really have to, and only if it is a friction blister. Always keep an eye on your blister to look for signs of infection. If you see redness or notice the area is hot to the touch, you might need antibiotic treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do blisters heal faster if you pop them?
No. Popping a blister can actually prolong the healing process.
- Is it better to pop your blisters or leave them alone?
Leave it be. A blister will heal on its own in about a week—as long as you don’t irritate the area further.
- Do blisters go away without popping?
Yes. A blister forms in an effort to protect your skin. If you leave your blister alone, it should go away. However, if you have cold sores, dyshidrotic eczema (itchy blisters usually on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet), or a severe second-degree burn, you may need medical treatment.