Infected Blister Treatment

November 11, 2014
Picture of a woman with high heels sitting down on a flight of stairs and feeling the blister on the back of her foot.

If you’ve ever had a blister, you surely know how painful they can be. Luckily, while blisters can certainly be unpleasant, they usually heal on their own without the need for medical intervention. In some cases, however, bacteria access underlying tissue and cause an infection. When this happens, it’s important to promptly seek professional care.

Below, we explain what blisters are and what causes them, offer tips on how to prevent them, and discuss whether you should pop them. We also provide guidance on how to spot an infected blister and explore what infected blister treatment typically involves.

What Is a Blister?

To understand what a blister is, it may be helpful to first learn about the skin’s anatomy. The skin contains three layers:

  • The epidermis (the top layer)
  • The dermis (the middle layer)
  • The hypodermis (the bottom layer)

When something irritates the skin, it can cause a fluid-filled sac to form either within the epidermis’s sublayers or between the epidermis and the dermis.

What Causes Blisters?

Some of the most common causes of blisters include:

  • Friction – When something repeatedly rubs against the skin, the resulting friction can cause a blister to form. Many people develop friction blisters from wearing shoes that are too tight (especially without socks) or from tightly gripping a tool.
  • Heat – Second-degree sunburns can cause skin to blister, so it’s important to wear sunscreen and protective clothing when outside.
  • Pinching – When something pinches the skin so hard that it damages blood vessels, blood can pool in the area below the skin, forming a blood blister.

How to Prevent Friction Blisters

Consider taking the following steps to help prevent friction blisters from forming:

  • Wear properly fitting clothes and shoes.
  • Wear gloves, socks, and other protective items to limit friction when engaging in physical activity (consider investing in special athletic socks, which provide extra padding to critical areas of the foot).
  • Break in new shoes before wearing them for an extended period of time.

Should You Pop a Blister?

Because popping a blister can increase the chances that it will become infected, you should avoid doing so unless the blister is especially large or painful. In the event that you do need to pop a blister, follow these instructions:

  • Wash your hands and the blister using soap and water.
  • Swab the blister with rubbing alcohol or iodine.
  • Sterilize a sharp, clean needle with rubbing alcohol.
  • Use the sterilized needle to puncture the blister at its edge.
  • Let the fluid drain from the blister.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the blister with a gauze pad or bandage.
  • After a few days have passed, sterilize scissors or tweezers with rubbing alcohol, then use them to cut away any dead skin from the blister.

How to Spot an Infected Blister

Early intervention can play a key role in recovering from an infected blister, so it’s important to watch out for any signs of an infection. These might include:

  • Increased redness, warmth, swelling, or tenderness near the blister
  • Red streaks around the blister
  • Pus or other fluids draining from the blister
  • An unpleasant odor emitting from the blister
  • A fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How to Treat Infected Blisters

If you think you might have an infected blister, it’s important to promptly consult with a healthcare professional. Without medical intervention, infected blisters can lead to serious medical emergencies that can cost people their limbs or even their lives (for example, tissue death, septic shock, and organ failure). 

Fortunately, with proper treatment, infected blisters typically heal quickly and completely. Infected blister treatment will vary depending on the severity of the infection but often involves cleaning and sterilizing the site and taking antibiotics (oral or intravenous). If you’re experiencing pain, swelling, or a fever, a provider may also prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to help relieve your symptoms.

Why Choose Us for Infected Blister Treatment?

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of an infected blister, turn to PhysicianOne Urgent Care, a trusted practice with locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. All of our urgent care centers are open 365 days per year during extended hours, and we never require appointments. Simply stop in at the time that’s most convenient for you, and one of our experienced providers will examine your blister, develop a customized care plan, and administer any necessary treatments. You can look forward to receiving top-quality care that’s delivered with ease and speed.

But what if we’re closed for the night or you simply don’t feel up to leaving the house? In that event, you can take advantage of our integrated 24/7 telehealth service. Our secure videoconferencing platform allows you to speak to a local provider from the comfort of your own home. And if we determine that you require hands-on care, we’ll schedule a time for you to visit our nearby urgent care center the following day. At PhysicianOne Urgent Care, we provide care when and where you want it.

Son kissing mother
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the attention you gave me last week. My son was started on antibiotics and ear drops. Within 24 hours he began to feel better. The poor kid had been going to school in tears because he was afraid of missing any more days, but feeling (and looking) just awful! He's not been able to even think about lacrosse practice, but thanks to starting him on antibiotics, he was thrilled to return to practice today.
Somers, NY
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